Whereupon we stuff our faces late at night at Pete’s Kitchen

True story: if you are cheap and greasy, there is a good chance I will love you forever. Or at least until I get a chance to digest you. So yeah, when I’m feeling some cheap and greasy, heading to a diner is a pretty standard choice. Or, you know, when hungover. I’m not really sure why it is that one craves greasy, salty food with a hangover. Maybe the excessive amounts of beer inside of you, through the magic of osmosis, absorbs a bunch of salt, which your body needs to desperately get back the next day to get over that hangover? No clue.

Anyhow, we found ourselves late one evening at Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax. The menu is pretty big, and has standard diner fare plus breakfast and Greek food. It had been a long evening full of beer, balls, and screaming soccer fans, and thus nourishment was required. When it’s super late, I often lean away from getting anything too meaty – meat takes longer to digest and I’ll totally get nightmares if I go to bed on a full stomach – so I went for the classic grilled cheese with fries.

Grilled Cheese with Fries

It was as greasy and delightful as one should expect diner grilled cheese and fries to be, and it certainly hit the spot.

While I didn’t get chance to feed upon everyone else’s food, I forced them to sit there and wait while I took pictures of their food. So, I’ll stick those pictures up here anyhow.

dip sandwich

This was…some kind of dip sandwich? French dip? Hmm. There was meat between those buns (huh huh…), beef I believe. The dip was a red sauce, and I totally dipped one of my fries in it. It tasted like red sauce (big surprise!). This looked really good, actually, and I might have gotten this myself would the beef not have given me horrid nightmares!

burrito

This would be a delightful burrito, a breakfast burrito I think, smothered in what I’m thinking is green chili sauce, but does not look particularly green here. Actually, I tend to assume that if a burrito is doused in something, it’s probably green chili sauce, cause that’s how these Coloradoans roll. If only I actually liked breakfast burritos. I just can’t deal with scrambled egg hanging out in there with all of the other ingredients. Maybe I could do a vegan breakfast burrito. Except then I would miss all of the delicious cheese.

pancakes

And, pancakes. Ordinary pancakes become extraordinary with strategic Action Photo! Watch syrup get poured like nothing else! Actually, I’m a big fan of eating breakfast at hours of the day which are not associated with breakfast. This is an excellent choice for someone who is not full of beer and doesn’t desperately need to replenish all of the missing salt in their body.

Anyhow, Pete’s Kitchen is pretty awesome. Apparently this is one of several restaurants owned by the same person, I’ll definitely have to go check out some of the others at some point to see if they are equally as delightful!

How to make badass beef and barley soup

That whole “colder weather” thing has gotten my mind on soups. I’ve had my fill of chicken soup lately, and there’s been a little gastronomic fantasy dancing around in my noggin as of late involving those cheap packs of “stew beef” that you can get at the grocery store. To complete the ultimate party in my mouth, I also picked up a bag of barley. Beef and barley soup is awesome, but barley in general is awesome. It’s like a heartier version of rice, and works great for many things where you want a fun grain.

So anyhow, we start with a giant slab of beef chunks dumped unceremoniously into a bowl.

beef in bowl

Note how nicely the beef still holds the shape of the container that I purchased it in!

Next up, I dumped in a bunch of seasonings, plus water, and slow cooked this thing for like 7 hours.

beef with water and seasonings

Hmm, heck if I can remember what all seasonings I put in there! Definitely sage, some oregano, parsley? Thyme? Whenever I try to think of what to season meat with, I just crank up some Simon and Garfunkle and let the music lead the way. Also, I think one of the best times to slow cook meat is by starting right before bed, and letting it go all night. Then, when you get up in the morning, you get to be all happy cause your apartment or house smells all brothy and delicious. And you can totally pick at the meat for breakfast. Or, you know, mix it in with your cereal if you don’t possess taste buds. Or mix it into someone else’s cereal if you are a bastard. The possibilities are endless!

Mmm, nothing like a little murky substrate to start your day right!

So I saved a bunch of the broth, and likewise stuck half of the beef in the freezer for future delights, and proceeded to make soup with the remainder.

ingredients

So, here’s everything I chopped up or dumped out to go with the beef:

  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • celery
  • onions
  • barley
  • salsa

I totally recommend the salsa bit when making soup, by the way. Gives the broth a nice spicy tomatoey kick!

So I looked around online at other people’s recipes for beef soup, and, based on what was in my fridge, dumped in a bunch of seasonings that seemed like a good idea. I suppose I could have actually, you know, followed a recipe, but what’s the fun in that, right?

soup ingredients

The above includes:

  • apple cider vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • soy sauce (I totally didn’t have worcestershire sauce and decided soy sauce was close enough!)
  • Three pepper lemon hot sauce
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • garlic
  • pepper

Oh, and a bunch of salt as well. So all of this I had slow cook for about 2.5 hours. Came out freaking awesome.

bowl o soup

Like, I just didn’t know it was possible for a soup to be badass. But indeed, this one was. Probably the best soup I’ve ever made. Which in a way makes it a shame that I never keep track of my portions when I throw ingredients in, oops!

Yet another sushi post. Because raw tuna is pretty much the Best Thing Ever.

So you know how it is when someone makes a bunch of food, and you eat it and are all like, “This is awesome, you shouldn’t have?!” But the person that made it seems just as grateful to you for liking it and eating it? I TOTALLY SYMPATHIZE. If you like to make food, it’s one of the saddest things ever to only have yourself to make it for. I mean, you’d have this awesome thing to eat, but it would take you a bajillion days to eat it all. Because most things that are both delicious and homemade are rarely single-serving. And then you’ll get sick of it halfway through, and things never taste as good when you don’t have someone else to help you appreciate them. Which is why I freaking love potlucks.

Sushi tray

My work decided to hold a potluck – on my birthday no less! So I, in typical fashion, use that as a good excuse to make sushi. I picked up about a half pound of really good tuna from the Pacific Mercantile, along with some fake crab (or krab, rather) from King Soopers. I already had some fish roe in the freezer, so I used that as well. I sliced up some avocado, cucumber, scallions, made some spicy mayo, and some tamago.

Ah yes, the tamago. You can make a fairly authentic tamago using a bread pan. For future reference, if you’re gonna use a bread pan, please use a metal one. In one of my many waves of obliviousness, I decided I could totally use pyrex on the stove. Didn’t work nearly as well as a metal bread pan, and then when I stuck it in the sink afterwards, the pan immediately did this!

broken pyrex

Yeah, both of my eyeballs are very thankful that the pieces flew out and not up!

Anyhow, the egg turned out decent regardless of the fate of it’s container, so that was good I suppose. I had a lot of fun making this sushi, and got particularly creative as I knew I had a willing audience. So I decided to do my own version of a rainbow roll.

rainbow roll

I think a little more rice would have made this rainbow gradient really stand out. However, the combination of ingredients made it stand out in my mouth, so it was all good.

Here’s some rolls, awaiting the cutting board.

Sushi tubes

And here’s a closeup of one of the nicer looking rolls, with assorted others in the background.

rolls closeup

You can have a lot of fun with putting spicy mayo in a frosting applicator (a ziplock bag with a tiny hole cut in the corner will work as well) and drizzling it on rolls, topping that with a range of ingredients. Looks and tastes good! I need to get some unagi sauce and do similar things. And get some unagi as well. Tuna and eel are in a neck and neck race for which is my favorite sushi fish!

Whereupon I go to a tailgate and eat sausages

So it’s National Novel Writing Month, meaning that I am officially a bit worse than usual at keeping this blog up to date. Never fear though, guilt saves the day! Thus, I post here rather than, you know, work on said novel. It’s all good, though, sleep is for the weak.

So anyhow, I’ve recently discovered the joys of sporting events, specifically attending Colorado Rapids games. And, tangentially, I’ve discovered the joy of organized tailgate parties. The food and beer flow quite freely, the latter of which makes for a game experience where the capacity for excitement far outreaches the capacity of my bladder.

Anyhow, the last game I attended had, amongst other things, a giant pile of sausages for the grabbin’! I am a big fan of sausages in all their forms, but have a weakness for bratwursts, so I eschewed the more traditional hot dogs and went for a a big dark wrinkly bratwurst. There were also those white bratwursts (I think they’re bratwursts, at least, or might be Italian sausage? My education is a bit limited here). The super pasty sausages, in any case, were a bit intimidating.

Sausage and beer!

Mmm, bratwurst with German mustard cooked on a grill always gets an A+ from me! And, buried underneath said bratwurst are onions. This is something that me 10 years ago (or even me 5 years ago) would have been completely horrified by. But, onions are really good for you, so I’m trying to convince myself that I actually, in fact, like onions. I’m not generally that picky of an eater, but there are still certain things I can’t handle, and I dislike this fact. I feel like you are a more flexible person and can get by better in situations if you can eat as many things as possible. Who knows when you might find yourself dining with the president and you’re served an onion parfait or something – you’ve gotta be able to choke that sucker down lest you offend someone! So, I’m tackling onions for now, maybe I’ll move on to some of my greater evils (such as mushrooms, and scrambled eggs) at a later time.

There was a good amount of food left over after the tailgate, and one of the cooks/servers decided to take it upon himself to attempt plying the already full masses with yet more sausages.

being offered sausages

Never had I been offered a giant pile of sausages in such a manner, and thus felt the need to document it here for all of posterity.

Alas, I am sad that the season is over, so looks like I will have to wait until next March to get my tailgate party fix!

Hooray for Gingerbread Waffles!

So the best part about this time of year is the fact that there are now 23828347924 things you can buy that are either pumpkin flavored or gingerbread flavored. As I am a cheap ho, I try to not actually buy too many of these things, as I can make just as many things with the potential to be even more delicious than store-bought or restaurant versions. So I’ve been obsessed with Racine’s gingerbread pancakes for quite awhile. As I live by myself, my breakfasts generally don’t get more fancy than “cold bowl o’ cereal”, but as I recently had a friend stay the night, I decided it was time for some gingerbread madness!

So, I decided on a whim to make waffles instead of pancakes, using this gingerbread waffle recipe from allrecipes.com.

So, to start off, you mix all of these together in a bowl:

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt

And here’s a secret: I don’t have any allspice. I kinda don’t even know what allspice is. All the spices? Going by this logic, I could have just sprinkled in a little of every spice I owned, but I just wasn’t ready to commit to eating curry powder (or garlic) in waffles (not that dry mustard doesn’t seem a tad weird…). So, I dashed in some ground cloves and nutmeg as a replacement, as they certainly seemed appropriate.

Next, you separate an egg, and beat it together with 1/3 cup brown sugar until fluffy. Then, you dump in the following ingredients:

3/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup molasses
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Of course, I had no buttermilk. So I used my 2% and hoped for the best. And oops, no molasses. Luckily, I had a metric ton of barley malt leftover from the last time I made granola bars, so I dumped some of that in instead. Plus some bonus honey.

And by this point, my pile of dishes involved with this fiasco looked something like this:

ingredients

I soaked the measuring cup containing the barley malt super fast after this, as barley malt can be quite the ho when washing dishes, if ya get my drift here.

So you mix together your wet ingredients and your dry ingredients. There’s still that egg white left, and that gets whipped together with 1/8 tsp cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Dump that on into the bowl o’ ingredients and mix together. The recipe called for raisins as well, but I decided that walnuts would be much more delightful, so I threw in about 1/4 cups worth of smashed nuts.

Once my super sweet waffle maker was all heated up, I dumped batter on and made waffles!

gingerbread waffles

I have a hard time gauging what baked goods require spray and what don’t, and apparently these waffles were the former. After the first round of waffles rather stubbornly clung to the waffle maker, I whipped out my handy dandy off-brand Pam spray and made sure that waffle iron was good and lubricated from then on out!

These were totally delicious, by the way. Super heavy, but that is the nature of waffles. I ended up heating up a leftover waffle and putting ice cream and chocolate sauce on top, and this was indeed the pinnacle of my waffle experience.

Holy Cow, the Calzones from Attivo are Freaking Awesome

Yeah, so I haven’t posted in a week as my brain has been preoccupied with the sorts of things that apparently don’t inspire me to write about whatever the hell I’ve been sticking in my mouth lately (food or otherwise). So it goes. I’ll blame Seasonal Affective Disorder or the 1% or the Russians or something. Anyhow, I realized I really shouldn’t neglect my Dear Blog Friend, as it’s been so good to me over the years, so I will take this as a good opportunity to blather on a bit about how amazing Attivo’s calzones are.

Attivo Calzone

No really, they’re freaking amazing. Especially the eggplant calzone. Straight eggplant, 3 cheeses, plus their delightful red sauce. It is magic on my mouth, soon converted into magic in my belly, soon converted to magically increasing my waistline. But seriously, these are the sorts of calzones I would happily go up a pants size for, cause they’re totally worth it.

Attivo also has some excellent floppy NY style pizza. A bit less sauce than I might generally prefer, but at $2.50 for a giant slice of cheese, I’m just not gonna complain all that much. Their subs are also delightful, I’ve had two thus far (the Pancho Villa and the Good Fella) and both were quite good (and ginormous to boot). Oh hey, and you can order online! This is a total bonus for someone like me who lacks the social graces to pick up a phone and call someplace. So, yes, I totally recommend Attivo for handling your calzone (and sub) needs.

Holy Veggie Curry, Batman!

So I recently had the fortune to acquire from a coworker a zucchini of epic proportions. I’ve been feeding off of this sucker for weeks (well, off and on at least), and still have some left. After awhile, fried zucchini and zucchini bread just don’t cut it anymore. I don’t think I’ve never used zucchini in curry before, and decided this was pretty much the ideal time to try it!

So I hacked up some pieces of zucchini, along with some potato, carrot, and onion. I decided to go with panang curry (using about half the paste in a small can), and crushed up some peanuts to go with it. My original intent was to fry up the vegetables in the curry and about half a can of coconut milk, and add in the other can a little later, but the coconut milk had other ideas. So after the can decided to dump it’s entire milky contents into the wok, I figured “the heck with it”, dumped everything else in as well, stirred, covered the pan, and ignored it for the next 10 minutes.

uncooked veggie curry

In the meantime I hacked up a big chunk of cilantro. My normal preference would be to use basil for this sort of thing, but as I had cilantro and no basil, cilantro it was. There’s also the fact that, at a regular grocery store, the only basil I can generally find is a tiny amount in a frou-frou package going for around $2. Cilantro, however, goes for about $.33 for a great big fistful. I can get much more reasonably priced basil from an Asian grocery, but alas, King Soopers and Safeway are ever so much closer to me.

Anyhow, I dumped the cilantro in near the very end and, despite (or perhaps because of) the long simmering time due to my dumping in all the coconut milk all early, the panang curry came out quite delightfully.

cooked curry

I think panang curry is a good one to go vegetarian with, since the paste itself is made with ground peanuts, and bonus peanuts tossed in make it even more protein-tastic. I’d made some basmati rice (which if you’re gonna eat long grain rice, is a freaking awesome way to go) and the curry paired quite excellently with it.

Veggie panang curry on rice

And, I’m becoming convinced that square and rectangular plates were invented for people like me who kinda suck at doing food photography. I’ve got all of these round pans and round plates, which end up looking rather dull when I’m cropping them all to rectangles! What I need to do is not take photos of my food when I’m hungry, because the hunger gets me all distracted – who wants to focus on awesome plate presentation and lighting when your stomach is growling and your photography subject is getting colder and more congealed with each passing minute?! Oh, first world problems…

Slow Cooker Adventures and Chicken Udon Soup

So I impulse bought half a chicken the other week. Yeah yeah, other people impulse buy Doritos and donuts and such, and I apparently buy poultry. Well, and donuts. And Doritos. So it goes. The slightly colder weather’s got me thinking about soup, so I decided to cram the half a chicken into my slow cooker and see what happens.

uncooked chicken

I just barely managed to cram that poor sucker in there. Once I did get it in there, I decided to add Bonus Flavor in the form of some cilantro stems, chunks of carrot, scallions, bay leaves, pepper, salt, and a miscellany of vaguely Italian herbs I grabbed from the drawer at random. Filled with water. And as I did all this right before bedtime, I set the timer to “slow” for 7.5 hours and went to sleep.

The next morning, I was greeted with a delightful pot of cooked chicken and broth!

cooked chicken in broth

Of course, I had to get to work, so I poked at the chicken with a fork a little, and left the cooker on the “keep warm” setting all day. That evening, I was all like “must…soup…now!” When one is sufficiently hungry, soup becomes a verb.

So I’m all like, “Hey, I bet this chicken and broth would be great with some udon!”

udon cooking

So I poured some broth into a pot with a bit of water (the broth was mighty thick, much to my delight) and added some udon, along with a bit of salt and pepper. While that was bubbling away, I chopped up some of the chicken and put it into a bowl along with some chopped cilantro and scallions. Once the udon was appropriately limp, I dumped it plus the broth into the bowl with the chicken, stirred, took a bite, and promptly burnt my tongue. Yum!

chicken udon soup

This was really pretty awesome. The udon was actually really similar to the noodles that you get out of a can of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup. I’m thinking that maybe wheat noodles (or whatever those noodles are made of), after sitting in a can, become about as squishy as cooked udon? Not really sure! Anyhow, I’m totally gonna make this again sometime. I like being in the habit of making my own soup anyhow, as soup from a can is generally Salt Death, with the added disappointment of containing significantly less meat (and vegetables, for that mater) than I want in my soup!

My Delightful Sushi Rampage

I’ve been on a sushi kick lately. A big reason for this is because, on a recent thrift store visit, I bought what is pretty much the Best Plate Ever. It’s a copper plate made by Del Campo in Italy which I picked up for $2. I hadn’t heard of Del Campo until I saw the engraving on the back of the plate, but doing a google search pulled up other dishes by Del Campo starting at around $300 or so. So, I’m pretty happy with that purchase. Not that I plan on trying to sell it as a.) something is worth only as much as you can convince someone else to pay you for it and b.) it’s a pretty sweet sushi plate. So, I made some fairly basic sushi-related items for dinner recently.

sushi plate

I had this super ripe mango that I really wanted to try to put in some rolls. So, lacking the ambition or drive to make anything super fancy, I decided to go with straight hand rolls. I also used avocado, cucumber, scallions, and fish roe. I’d also recently purchased a can of tofu pockets (which I’m sure has a Japanese name, but I totally can’t remember what that is). Tofu pockets are awesome because all you do is stuff them with rice and eat. Delightful. These tofu pockets, however, also wanted some cucumber and fish roe. The remaining mango I neatly laid in a pile. Ripe mango is so freaking good!

I had some leftover rice, plus other leftover ingredients, so I took that as an opportunity to put together a super awesome lunch.

Awesome lunch

I had just enough cucumber and avocado left to make a single roll (well, half-roll technically) of sushi, so I did that and did tofu pockets to fill up the rest of the container. I really need to invest in a decent bento box one of these days, as those are much more aesthetically pleasing than tupperware!

Pretty Much The Most Festive Furikake Ever

So, at some point in the vaguely recent past, I found myself at the Pacific Mercantile in downtown Denver. This is pretty much the Best Place Ever to buy anything Japan-related. Well, except, you know, Japan. And I’m sure LA has some great places as well (along with a bunch of other US major cities, I’m sure). OK, so Pacific Mercantile is the best place in Colorado. Anyhow, it’s a great store to make impulse buys such as this:

Furikake packet

What we have here is the most festive furikake that I’ve ever seen. Teeny animal heads, delightful! Furikake, for those unaware, is a Japanese mixture of dry ingredients that you can dump all over your rice and make it taste delicious. I usually get it in jar form (it’s great to keep around to dump on leftover rice) but I of course could not resist furikake in such delightful packaging as above. I will apparently buy anything if the package is plastered with happy anime-esque characters and cute animals. It’s not just me, either – I read some article awhile back about how wine bottles sell 40% better when there’s an animal on the label. Curse you, cuteness! Curse you and your dollar-taking ways!

Anyhow, I had a crap-ton of sushi ingredients lying around, but neither the time nor the desire to make actual sushi, so I decided this was the optimal time to try out my exciting new furicake. So I made rice, dumped it on a plate, and sprinkled on the furikake. I arranged around the edge some sliced avocado, cucumber, scallions, cold shrimp, fish roe, and tamago. Sprinkled on some wasabi and soy sauce, mixed together, and stuffed my face. Delightful! Can’t say that the furikake stood out in any way flavorwise, but it totally satisfied my needs.

Rice pile!

And on a related note, I had a vision for making easy tamago. So, tamago is egg mixed with soy sauce, sugar, rice vinegar, and cooking wine, then cooked layer by layer on the stove. The outcome is delightful, but the process is tedious if you’re already dealing with a bunch of other ingredients for your future sushi feast. As I’ve recently discovered the joys of microwaving eggs, I realized you can totally do this with tamago as well. So I mixed the ingredients up, microwaved it, and indeed it was fast and delicious. Of course, as the shape of the microwaved tamago will either resemble a.) the container you microwaved it in or b.) a hacked up version of the container you microwaved it in, it’s not the prettiest solution. But, unless you’re making tamago nigiri, aesthetic isn’t really too much of a concern, so might as well go for efficiency!

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