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Saturday Night Steak (and other updates)

Good evening Dear Readers:

I haven’t written since March 10, and for that I apologize. Even WordPress started nagging me about it! I’m still not working, but working ON it. I have some more gluten-free stuff to share, and I may have a big decision to make soon. But more on that as it happens, since I haven’t been offered anything in the top hiring state in the nation in the 8 months I have been actively looking for a job. Nuffin’.

Enough of that.

Remember the blog post I did on lunch bags a while back? Updates: I’ve got more sewing done, and the last of the lunch bags is complete. I have decided to retire the book Lunch Bags, at least for a while, until I have more inspiration or someone asks for one. This interesting lunch bag is the reason I bought that darn book in the first place. I even found the same fabric used in the book, but kept getting vexed by the directions. Finally, I finished it, more or less just like the book, even though I’m not carrying a lunch bag around anymore.

A triumph over. . .oh, heck, it's finished.

A triumph over. . .oh, heck, it’s finished.

There ended up being three of these Zipper-top Lunch Bags on page 71, two of which looked like this:

One of three lunch bags

One of three lunch bags

I gave one to my SGI-USA District Leader, and this last one went to faithful reader Aunt Kathy. Surprisingly, I had enough materials left to make a third, although I kept thinking this was a fourth. (I went to Tulane at night, so I can’t count.) I hate wasting fabric and supplies, so Neighbor K got this version:

A wilder version of the Zippered Lunch Bag

A wilder version of the Zippered Lunch Bag

If you’re wondering why I call it that, it’s because I used black on the bottom and for whatever reason, I’d previously cut more Insul-Fleece with this fabric to line it with:

And the screaming red liner for lunch bag 3. Told you it was wilder

And the screaming red liner for lunch bag 3. Told you it was wilder.

I forgot to take a picture before I gave it to her, so yes, if you’re reading this, K, these pictures were taken in your kitchen when I brought the pug back in. (K also was the recipient of the first bicycle lunch bag.)

A note about Insul-Fleece–it won’t keep lunch icy cold for a long period of time, you’ll have to stash the bag in the fridge at work, or at least carry something that won’t spoil easily.

I’m not sewing that much, mostly on the weekend. I’ve got a couple of things to stitch up this weekend and I hope I get them all finished on time.

OK, now through the bedroom to the HeatCageKitchen garden on the back patio. NOTE: I am NOT making escargot from the snails I keep finding. Yuck. I just toss them over the fence and tell them to go find a new life.

So the gardening is, well, it’s going, and if you remember the little tomato survivor, it finally turned red and became part of a garden salad.

The one, lonely winter-surviving tomato.

The one, lonely winter-surviving tomato.

Incidentally, that plant is starting to come back, as you can see from the greenery at the bottom. Need to trim off the brown parts so the green can thrive. I think I waited a bit too long to use the tomato, because it became a bit, oh, you know, odd, like it was over-ripened, but not too far. Hate to toss that hardy plant after the multiple freezes it went through.

I also had my computer in the shop for a few days, and before I picked it up yesterday I ducked into Garden Ridge a couple of doors down. I saw lots of hanging planters for both tomatoes and strawberries, including one that you plant bell peppers on one end and tomatoes on the other. A hanging salsa grower? I’m game.

So I gathered up a few ingredients including mint, lettuce, Italian flat-leaf parsley, two garlic shoots, and one hardy tomato and made a gourmet salad. Ready? Here it is.

Le Salade a la Amy Garden

Le Salade a la Amy Garden. You would pay top dollar for this in a snooty restaurant.

Those dark colored leaves are lettuce from the “city mix” I planted several months ago. For whatever reason, that was pretty much everything I harvested, and a little has grown back. Oh, boy.

Sure, I put a bit of salt and fresh-mixed dressing on it–who wouldn’t? Of course it was tasty, but I put too many mint leaves in it. Not earth-shattering, just a little potent.

Speaking of salads, I have gone back to doing the lettuce-in-a-jar thing after a few months of not doing it, mostly because of the very cold weather. While we didn’t get any snow this time around, not many folks are interested in cool, crisp lettuce when the heater is on and the fireplace is lit. You want warm. . .much as I love salads, this winter, I gave it up for a while.

So you probably know my penchant for seeking out stuff on sale, particularly meat on sale, and at SuperTarget, I can definitely get lucky.

The steak to start with

The steak to start with. No, Fancy Feast was not part of the deal.

This particular steak was a good flank steak, and the kind that’s organic grass fed and all that. But what to do with it?

When I had a “regular” job (that is, one I knew I was going to every day) my favorite single-girl payday meal was a steak salad I created with the usual lettuce/tomato/cucumber, and added either sugar snap peas, avocado, or some other veggie that looked real good that day. My preferred steak was the Flat Iron Steak, which I’d never heard of before but eagerly tried and loved.

The dressing is one of my favorites from Suzanne Somers’ Get Skinny On Fabulous Food, (page 149) with six tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, two tablespoons lemon juice, two cloves of garlic, and salt with freshly ground black pepper. Whiz that together with your hand blender or mini blender, and set that aside.

I discovered flat iron steaks while prowling in Kroger’s meat department one day. They were, at the time, relatively inexpensive, although the price has gone up considerably in the last couple of years. I would get a big one, use my little meat tenderizer tool thingy and get it cooking. Of course I wouldn’t eat the ENTIRE steak at one time; they are usually as long as my forearm. Depending on the size of the steak, I would have one third to one fourth on the salad, and then cut up the rest for more delicious salad later. Sliced thinly and against the grain, the steak and the accompanying salad veggies are wonderful together with that simple vinaigrette.

Yum. I need to make that dressing again soon. Shaking oil & vinegar in a jar is easy, but that one is fantastic.

My method for cooking just about any kind of steak is simple: stash it under the broiler in the toaster oven. Oh, wait, you want to do it on top the stove? OK, here you go: cast iron pan, a little olive oil, heat on high while you prep your steak (salt/pepper, whatever.) Once you know it’s screaming hot, toss that steak in and IMMEDIATELY turn down the heat to medium. DO NOT go check Facebook because you will ruin a good steak. Do not do that, either.

After a few minutes, when you can easily pick up the steak with tongs, a fork or other implement, flip it. Don’t pull or scrape the steak from the pan–if it’s stuck, leave it until it’s not stuck anymore, which shouldn’t be more than a few minutes, like 5 to 7. (You did put oil in the pan, right?) Cook on the second side until it’s done to your liking–red, pink, completely cooked through, whatever. I prefer some red/pink in the middle, because I will microwave the leftovers later and I don’t want to overcook them.

Really, you should leave a steak to rest for five minutes before you cut into it. Some of us are impatient, but I do it most of the time.

This particular steak I cooked on top of the stove, but because I have more time on my hands than most, I decided to marinate it before hand.

Ahh, there's the rub!

Ahh, there’s the rub! Lemon zest, garlic shoots and finely chopped rosemary from the garden.

I’ve said this before, I love the garlic shoots, and if you’ve never tried growing garlic, it’s not difficult. I haven’t yet harvested any, because I don’t think it’s time, but I’ll keep you posted.

To the chopped stuff, I tossed in some olive oil–I didn’t measure, but I’d say it was between a quarter cup and an eighth of a cup. Mixed it all together, along with some salt and pepper, dropped the steak in and coated both sides, put some plastic wrap on top and stashed it in the fridge.

After the overnight bath

After the overnight bath

The next day I just used my steak-cooking method and it came out wonderful:

That's what a steak is supposed to look like!

That’s what a steak is supposed to look like!

After the requisite rest period, it looks like this when you slice it:

Oh, yeah. . . .

Oh, yeah. . . .

Yes, it was a really good steak. Twice. The lemon, mild garlic and rosemary infused the meat with a mild but distinct flavor that was tasty, but not overpowering like some marinades and flavorings can do. I don’t mind a stronger flavor, but this was certainly worth the time and effort. I’ll do this again sometime, maybe with garlic cloves rather than the shoots (which I probably won’t have much longer anyway once I harvest.)

It’s gluten free! (By virtue of having no bread/wheat around, of course.)

You could always do this on a grill, too. . .I just didn’t. Feel free to grill and let me know how it turns out, please.

It was a good night, and I even had a glass of wine after dinner. With more sewing done and projects given away, it was a pretty good weekend.

More to come in upcoming blog posts.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Downtown, revisited

Evening, Dear Readers:

Yesterday was my first trip back downtown since my last job ended on January 31. Because of one of our recent  “freeze days,” (for which I had to drive to work and spend $13 to park)  I had $9 left on my Metro Q-Card, so bus fare was covered. I have $2.50 left on it, so if I find myself going back, I’ve got to load more money on it. But not much.

I came home and eventually took a 4-hour nap, a task I repeated today after a fruitless trip into town to meet with an “agency.”  I was that tired after going downtown and walking that much through the Tunnel again.

When I walked out of that office for the last time, the only thought crossing my mind was “Never Again.” OK, so another huge company called me and wanted me to go see them (and I’ve since had another call from a very large oil company, too.) I found my way through the Tunnel–a lot farther than my former office–and I made it early. I did plenty of walking, and found some new stuff, too, including another (smaller) Seattle’s Best and, finally, the Houston Shoe Hospital that I could have gone to instead of procrastinating and going to the one on NASA Road 1.

When I was working, I put plenty of money on the Starbucks card, primarily so that I could, when the time came, stop for a coffee or a bite to eat and not mess with the “house money.” Just $10 on occasion, and I think the last amount was $15. Yesterday was such an occasion. (Today I stopped nowhere, and came straight home.) Remember that you also get points, discounts and freebies when you have that registered card. If you have the Starbucks app on your phone, it’s even easier to keep track of everything and get the messages about free things and discounts.

There was no Starbucks around this building that I could find, but there was a nice little deli in the last part of the tunnel. In fact, the HR chick I was talking with said she’d seen people with the Starbucks cups but had no idea where they were getting them.

About 30 minutes before the interview, I was down there with a bottle of water and this neat little snack:

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This was pretty good, although I had to wash it down with a good amount of water and nibble quite a few mints before I went in my interview so I didn’t have bad breath. (I love mints.)  When it was full, it was raisins, almonds, cashews, sunflower and pumpkin seeds. No salt, unfortunately, so I guess that’s part of the “diet” thing, but overall pretty tasty. (I didn’t think to take a picture of it full; it did have only peanut oil, thank heavens.) There were many different varieties of these snack cups, but this was the healthiest I found in my quick scan of the shelf.

When the interview was over, I had some time before the next bus showed up (about an hour) so I headed back through the Tunnel to the JP Morgan Chase Building.  I knew that Starbucks was a bit out of the way and likely less crowded. I ordered a decaf, but didn’t realize they had some good lunch! I was thinking that I’d get some of that yogurt/fruit stuff, but not with the granola on top.

Look what I found:

20140220-185443.jpg

Here’s a better look at what’s in there:

20140220-185538.jpg

You know what? It was a pretty good salad. No croutons or other “bready” things in it like many salads have. At that point I didn’t want coffee anymore, but they’d already poured it so I paid for and drank it on the walk out of the tunnel and up to the bus stop.

While it wasn’t advertised as such, it is. . .gluten free. Woo hoo! Companies are getting the messages about what consumers want, and they are responding in kind. For all the insults levied at Starbucks, I have to say they do get what their customers are asking for. No gluten-free baked goods yet, but last I heard, they were working on it.

That’s capitalism, folks. That’s America.

You can see full information on this item on Starbucks’ website. A teeny bit of soy here and there, but not enough to bother me, thank heavens.

I may be going back downtown in the next couple of weeks to meet with that oil company, and I’ll let you know what I find there. Might make another trip to Phoenicia downtown on the free Greenlink bus line if the weather’s good–complete with a full report.

Wherever I go, if there is a Starbucks with that salad in their case, I know I can have something healthy and gluten free.

Happy Dining!

Tastes like chicken

Good evening, Dear Readers:

Sorry I haven’t written in a while; it’s been busy. Lots to tell, so let’s get started!

Ok, foodies, I have big news—Hostess Twinkies return next week! Along with Hostess Cupcakes (upgraded with dark chocolate) as well as a few other of your favorite Hostess goodies. The new Hostess, LLC, is rolling them out as we speak, and they are due to be in stores on Monday the 15th. Can you believe it?

You didn’t buy a bunch of them on eBay, did you? Well, soon you’ll be able to replace them with fresh ones.

Remember the joke about how Twinkies had a shelf life of “forever?” They really didn’t, but the new Hostess company is working on extending the freshness period. Originally, Twinkies had a shelf life of about 30 days. Are you ready for this? They’re going to deliver some of them frozen, so that stores can stamp their own freshness date on them, and extend the freshness date to 45 days, or longer.

Oh, YEAH!!! Just take some into your fallout shelter, and you can stay there a lot longer.

The new company is also going to start investigating different ways to make a Twinkie, including whole wheat , low-calorie, and yes. . .gluten free. That’s what it says in today’s Wall Street Journal. Woo hoo!

Friend of this blog MK says, “so now when the zombie apocalypse comes, you can be gluten free.” What a guy. The new versions of Twinkies may be available as early as later in the year.

Rest assured I’ll be on the case and report back to you on this important development.

In other news, I discovered a new taste to love. Cold-smoked salmon.

Sunday I did some shopping while in town, and I didn’t plan on getting hungry. Oh, well, I did. While in the area of a number of my favorite eateries (and the location of many more), I ended up having lunch at. . .IKEA. Yes, that Swedish bastion of the flat-pack and Allen wrenches, derided by many (and even parodied in season 10 of British comedy show Red Dwarf, an episode called Lemons.) I needed a couple of things and decided to have lunch while I was there in the café on the second floor. It’s simple Swedish (and some American) food, for the most part, and no, I didn’t have the meatballs. (That was only an issue in Europe, anyway.) Normally, I would have the open-faced shrimp sandwich on multi-grain bread. Topped with a hard-boiled egg, a mayo dressing and a sprig of dill, it’s one of my occasional indulgences that I have in IKEA, and occasionally, one of their interesting chocolate desserts.

Until now. Now I’m gluten-free. No bread. No cake. Now what?

I could get that sandwich and eat just the top of it. But, eat the filling without the bread? Well, that’s half the enjoyment of the sandwich. No, I would have to find another thing to eat, maybe the chicken salad. I didn’t make it that far. The gentleman in front of me went smoked salmon and dill dressing, and I decided to be brave and try something new. I got the one next to it, smoked salmon with a pile of lime-marinated tiny-diced veggies, sitting right next to what he picked up. Called Najad Salmon, this is how it was served:

IMG_2062

If you’re not familiar with this kind of thing, it’s a preserved salmon using salt and herbs that’s very thinly sliced crosswise with a flexible thin blade. Honest, I’ve seen Martha Stewart make this kind of thing on one of her early shows, but I’ve never had it before. Just not something that’s part of traditional New Orleans cuisine, you understand. So, I decided to be brave and try something new.

Salmon preserved in this manner is softer than you may be used to. Between the herbs and the salt, it softens the flesh and infuses lots of flavor into it, taking out the “fishy” taste that salmon has when cooked, in the same manner that ceviche does to shrimp. Being from New Orleans, I would have never known what this was without seeing Martha Stewart making it on her show and adding it to one of her many cookbooks. Still, being more familiar with baked/poached/fried salmon and the stuff in a can, this kind of thing just isn’t something that would normally cross my path were it not for Houston being such a diverse and international city. With an IKEA cafe’ right in the middle.

So, you likely have at least once in your life asked someone, what does (whatever they were eating) taste like? You may have heard the old yarn, “Tastes just like chicken.” (In some cases, the individual may have a sarcastic streak.) Well, this cold-smoked doesn’t taste like chicken. . .but it does taste like thinly sliced deli ham. No kidding, that’s what it tasted like to me. Ham, sliced. Go figure. It was salty, a bit sticky and quite delicious.

Guess what? It’s my new gluten free favorite at IKEA! (I hope.)

I did try to roll up the salmon, burrito-style, around the tiny diced veggies and eat it that way. Nothin’ doin’, the salmon was too soft. Ended up being like scrambled eggs at that point, but it was very tasty. Of course, if I had a tortilla, it might have worked, but it wouldn’t have been gluten-free, either.

According to the nutrition information on IKEA’s website, it has less than 300 calories. Not bad!

I added a side salad from the salad bar, which consists of iceberg lettuce, cherry tomatoes, croutons and sliced black olives. Added a bit of olive oil and what looked like balsamic vinegar and I was in business. Skipped dessert this time, and went on with my afternoon.

After I’d paid for the other things I went in for, I headed over to Trader Joe’s, where I proceeded to have another DUH moment while looking for almond flour. It’s considerably less expensive there, so I bought extra. I went to where I thought I picked it up last time, where all the bagged nuts are, and just could not find it. Looked around where I was standing, too—nothing. So I asked someone. . .and it was right where I was standing earlier, at knee level on me.

DUH!

Maybe I should have stayed home. Well, at least I have more almond flour to make some delicious Wheat Belly Biscuits with. Sometime.

Now and again, it’s good to take a chance and find something new. You might even find a new favorite.

Don’t forget:

THE TWINKIES ARE COMING!! THE TWINKIES ARE COMING!!! GET READY!!!

Happy Dining!

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