I made meatloaf last night for dinner. Nothing special, right? I agree. So I decided to grab a bunch of herbs from the garden to jazz things up a bit. Oregano, two kinds of basil, rosemary, parsley, lemon balm, marjoram, thyme and lavender all spoke to me. (I use my herbs so often that I keep a pair of scissors hanging near the front door so they are ever at the ready.) I popped them into a bowl to soak and realized how beautiful they are just sitting there. These shots are not arranged, it's all how they hit the bowl. So pretty. Growing them myself I know there is nothing funky on them, no chemicals or pesticides. They get fed all organic stuff, are talked to while I clip what I need for a meal, and tenderly cleaned of insects and dead leaves. Plus, there's the savings. I haven't had to purchase herbs for months, yet I use them in everything. It's pretty cool to grow what you eat, even if it is just herbs for now (though the pepper plant is producing like crazy and should be ripening soon.) I guess I have a gardener's soul afterall.
I love it when a recipe comes together the way it tastes in my head. I have been craving Asian food. In the past, I would get take out from Dragon's Den and all would be right with the world. Now because of the whole no wheat thing, it's not that easy. There is much more involved than making a phone call. So I needed to come up with something that would satisfy my craving and keep The Man interested.
Saucy, tender, crunchy, full of veggies... really really yummy. Oh, and with the right prep, pretty easy.
Like all cooking, prep is important. However, Asian food for the most part requires more prep than usual so it all comes together at the same time. It's all about the mise en place, the French culinary term that translates to "everything in place". Mess with another cook's meez in a professional kitchen and you could end up being tomorrow's lunch special. Getting all of the chopping and cutting done ahead makes the final dish go together in a flash. It also gives you the time to get all the prep stuff cleaned up and out of the way, leaving very little to do after dinner.
All the veggies are cut to be about the same size, with carrot and celery cut at an angle to make them prettier. Garlic and ginger are minced, as is the cilantro. Chicken breast is cubed and tossed with cornstarch. Tamari, sesame oil, umiboshi vinegar, coconut oil, safflower oil, honey, chicken stock, white wine, salt and pepper are at the ready. The first thing that needs to be done is roast the raw cashews. Over medium heat, a large saute pan is warmed with a small dollop of coconut oil. The cashews are added, stirring constantly, until they start to brown and are fragrant.
Funny, I don't like cashews unless they are in food. I can't snack on them, but give me cashew chicken, or use them for a vegan raw tiramisu and I'm in heaven. Go figure...
Remove the cashews from the pan and give it a wipe to get any little pieces of the cashews out. (You don't want to have them burn and destroy the dish; you also don't want to wash the pan, the flavor that remains helps to make the dish.) Heat the pan up again, adding a bit of coconut oil and some safflower oil. Add the chicken, keeping the pieces spread out, and get a little color on them.
Once they are a little brown, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and ginger. Season with a bit of black pepper, no salt yet. Once the garlic and ginger are fragrant, add the cilantro, a bit of tamari, sesame oil, honey, chicken stock, white wine and umeboshi vinegar. No recipe per se, just make it taste good. When the chicken is cooked, the sauce thickens a bit and the veggies are crisp tender, adjust the salt, add the broccoli and cashews and toss around until the broccoli is tender.
Served over rice, it was a great meal, and made both my tummy and my soul very happy. Oh, and it made The Man happy as well. He even took the leftovers for lunch the following day. :-)
I will say it right from the beginning. I am not a fan of baseball. To sit at home and watch it on TV is like watching grass grow. The Man, on the other hand, is a big fan. He will even listen to games on the radio, which is even more boring than TV. However, when the opportunity presented itself on July 4th to go to a Smokies game, I conceded defeat and agreed to go. Due to the horrible weather and the friend that offered the tickets having to work later than expected, our plans fell through, and it made The Man very sad. I don't like that; I put him through far too much lately for him to be sad. I jumped on their website and looked for tickets. To my glee, they're cheap. When I say cheap, $9.50 for the good seats, $7.50 for the less desirable seats. Movies aren't this cheap! The seating chart isn't very user friendly, and I've never seen the stadium, so I didn't know if the cheap seats were any good. I splurged and went with the good ones. I found a pair of seats that were in the second row right at first base! I texted him quickly to make sure we didn't have plans, and bought them.
As I said, I don't like baseball, so I wasn't looking forward to this at all, except that I knew he would enjoy himself. The stadium is about an hour from where we live, in the mountains near where Dollywood is. Parking is right on site, and reasonably priced at $3 (or so The Man tells me). The tickets were waiting at the Will Call window and quickly picked up. It is a very small stadium, much smaller than he is used to, so even the cheap seats would give great views. We, however, were sitting in prime seating. Even I understood that from the moment we sat down. You could see everything so well, which made it easy to follow the game. He couldn't stop smiling. There is a lot going on besides the game, with little activities all over for kids and families, stuff on the field between each half inning, music, mascots... It's pretty impossible to get bored. After the game there were fireworks, a really wonderful display that they postponed from the 4th because of weather. Being that close to the field, it was right over our heads and quite special.
The Smokies didn't win, but we had a great time and will be doing it again really soon. Yes, I admit it. I had fun at a baseball game. I'm not sure I'll become a swag wearing fan or tune in to games on the radio, but I will root for our team and see them as often as possible. Maybe I should look into season tickets next year?
There was a recurring post subject that I used on Facebook for the last two and half years that became very popular. Miss Lexie's Sample Etiquette told the story of a woman in retail, and all the drama that she encounters. She is far more gentile than I, never failing to face the hardest situation with grace and a smile. She has become my alter ego, and a nice outlet for all the craziness that happens on a daily basis at work. Since I am on Facebook hiatus, I have decided to let her live here for the time being. I also decided to continue to let Weebly post my blog entries to Facebook for a bit longer.
So, without further ado, may I introduce.....
Miss Lexie's Sample Etiquette:
If you choose to come in to the store in a tiny bikini top and a skirt that would be a mini on a three year old, please don't complain (loudly, I might add) to Miss Lexie that it's cold in her area, and someone should "turn the effing heat up!" Miss Lexie's world is surrounded by coolers of all shapes and sizes that are about 33 degrees, to keep all of the lovely cheeses that she has (243 as of inventory on Monday) from dying. I wear three layers for a reason. You got accepted to UT, I assume you have a brain, dear.
I will reiterate this once again, for anyone that has not heard the news. When almonds and soy beans grow tiny little udders, I will have vegan "cheeze" in my department. Until then, please see the section that has all things fake.
Which brings Miss Lexie to an oldie but a goodie - if you choose to be vegan for religious, moral or health reasons, bravo to you! That sort of self control is not part of Miss Lexie's makeup. However, please don't ask those of us that handle food to create prime rib from soy beans. You don't want to eat meat? Then why do you want vegetables to look and taste like meat? Silly humans....
Finally, and exchange that went on between Miss Lexie and a pair of young ladies that were a tad on the dim side:
Customer 1 - I'm looking for a cheese, but I don't know the name.
ML - Can you describe it?
C1 - it's round and orange?
ML - round as in wheel or ball?
C1 - "blank stare"
C2 - didn't he say it looked like a softball?
C1 - "blank stare".... uh, I guess so...? So I guess ...... it's a..... ball?
ML - Okay... I bet it mimolette. I'm sorry, but I can't carry it. In fact, you can't get it anywhere in the US. (Miss Lexie then went on to explain what happened with the FDA and why we can never have this divine cheese here again because they are yet another ignorant government agency that thinks they know what's good for us - I won't bore you with details)
C1 - "blank stare" So, can I special order it from you?
ML - No, you can't get it in the US, the FDA won't let it in.
C1 - "blank stare" (seeing a pattern?)
C2 - I bet you can order it on Amazon, I get everything on Amazon! Even that great lipgloss.... (three minute prattle about lipgloss ensued)
ML - You can't get it in the US, from Amazon or anywhere else.
C1 - ...... Oh.... I guess I'll just drive to Canadia (I'm not joking with that pronunciation, I swear) and get it there.
ML - (with a smile) You do that dear. Have a great trip!
Couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.