A Week, in Three Acts (Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches)

skipaheadAct 1: “Is it Friday yet?” So said the girl who enjoys an incredibly flexible work schedule and one or two work-at-home days each week. This week has seemed exceptionally long though. It all began with some news about staff changes at my job. It’s an exciting time, but it also likely means more demands on me and a more rigid work schedule. Since the biggest perk of my job is my ability to work from home as needed and start my day at 10am or leave at 4pm when I can, I’m a little troubled. I know we’ll get back to a flexible schedule again, but as we transition, I imagine I’ll be pulled in a few more directions. It’ll be a fun ride anyhow. Ride along with me?

Act 2: In the middle of the week I attended a conference and flashed a handful of attendees. Ok, not really, but kind of. If you ever plan a conference, please please please make sure you have a spot to direct nursing mothers to. PLEASE. To be fair, this conference did have a spot for me. On the other side of the hotel on the 24th floor. It took no less than 10 minutes to get to. So 20 minutes of travel, plus the time it takes to pump, meant I was missing whole sessions out of my $200 conference. There were only five sessions to begin with, so I was not a happy girl. Even so, I tried to roll with it. But when I went to use the room for the second time that day and found it was in use, I was incredibly frustrated when they didn’t have a back up option for me. Folks, I’ve pumped in storage closets, I’ve pumped in my car, I’ve even pumped in a restaurant after hours. I’m flexible. I really just need a door. I asked the hotel and conference crew if there was an office, a bathroom with a sofa, a closet – anything at all that I could use in lieu of the 24th floor isolation chamber that was in use. No, no, no. With tears welling up – mostly out of frustration – I started counting my options. I told the staff I’d nurse right there in the lobby if that’s what they left me to (fyi – I do have a cover-up, so we’re not talking about extreme indecency here). They said I couldn’t do that, but didn’t give me any other options either. So I walked three steps in the direction of the lobby sofa, saw a plethora of guys in three-piece suits on their blackberrys, and quickly chickened out. Instead I found a corner in one of the meeting rooms that had minimal traffic and a spot to plug-in my pump. It was still humiliating sitting there with my shirt hoisted, my nursing coverup (aka “tent”), and the steady “swish, swash, swish, swash, swish, swash” of my breast pump while conference participants networked and met with one another close by.

(By the way, later that day I found that the bathrooms did in fact have sofas, despite the front desk looking at me with bafflement when I asked that question.)

Act 3: Finally, the end of my week was spent battling a three-day snow storm that veered wildly from sputtering rain, to huge snowflakes, to sleet; and so on. I had watched the weather closely because of an early morning meeting, with participants from all around the state. The meeting went off without a hitch and although I hid behind various types of technology all through the meeting, my struggling social side was drained. I mean it, I was dog tired when I got home. Introvert friends, if you find yourself physically exhausted after meetings or parties, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Read this and take comfort. How to Care for you Introvert is one of my favorite articles. I share it, reference it, and read it often. It gives me comfort and reminds me that I’m not a crazy person (well, that might be an overstatement), but just an introvert.

So, needless to say, easy was the name of the game this week for dinner. I wanted comforting food, fast food (from my kitchen, foo, not from McDon’s), and mostly I wanted easy food. So, consider this the first installment of the “this week can just go right back to H E double hockey sticks” series.


Philly Cheesesteak Sandwiches

Overall: five-star

Go ahead, have some wine! I love this Purple Cowboy Merlot. It’s named Purple Cowboy because the rodeo-loving wine makers always had purple teeth. My cowboy always turns his teeth purple when he has wine too!

This recipe makes me happy. It was so quick to whip up; had the meat, veggies, dairy, and grain all included; was a breeze to clean up; and tasted great! It costs a bit more since it does require steak and if you’re feeding a big family it could add up, but at least a little steak goes a long way in this one! (Recipe here, from Simply Scratch.) Continue reading

You don’t know Reuben (How to make a panini without a press)

This post is a combo post. Part review of a reuben sandwich, part tips and technique on how to make a panini even if you don’t have a panini press. I had high hopes of making corned beef and cabbage for St. Paddy’s Day (note: a friend of mine alerted me that I’ve called this day by the wrong nickname for years! Apparently it’s not Pattie’s or Patty’s. It’s Paddy’s. Lesson learned.), but I woke up with a cold. Again. So instead of figuring out corned beef and cabbage and making – and eating it! – for the first time, I spent St. Paddy’s day catching snippets of naps in between Little K’s meal schedule. By dinner, we were looking to partake a little in the Irish festivities and fill our empty bellies fast. So, we made reuben paninis. One problem though… I don’t have a panini press. I did a quick hunt to see if I could find recommendations on how to get around this little hitch, and found lots of tips.

Don’t worry if you can’t watch the video though, here’s the gist:

  1. Use a smaller frying pan stacked on top of the sandwiches as they fry.
  2. Press it down with your own weight or with a few different cans from your pantry.

It worked great and the reubens were super yummy.


Reuben Panini

Overall: five-star

If you haven’t had a reuben before – or heaven forbid, you don’t even know what a reuben is! – put that on your to-do list. They are amazing – especially with plenty of thousand island and swiss cheese! Oh, and the cheater panini press worked like a charm.  (Recipe here, from BringingUpBoys on Tasty Kitchen.)

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Manhandling it like an enchilada (Lasagna Rolls)

It’s me, E. I need to set the record straight on a couple things.

Ok, so Krystal got most things about me right and has been pretty flattering. But she hasn’t talked about my skills in the kitchen.

Fair enough, there aren’t that many skills that I possess in the kitchen. In fact, I have a tendency to be dangerous. Not in the “boiling noodles started on fire” sense, but more in the “this recipe calls for 1,328 ingredients!?!?” sense. I commit to recipes that are WELL beyond my capabilities (e.g. my steaks are still exclusively served in hues of grey.) But of all the weird recipes I may try and botch, there is a holy quadrinity that I will only attempt if I know I’ll emerge victorious:

  • Enchiladas
  • Nachos
  • Chili
  • Lasagna

One of my favorite webcomics: garfield minus garfield. It has apparently never mentioned lasagna.Now that I say it out loud type it out loud that makes sense.

So when I told Krystal I was making lasagna rolls and she responded with skepticism, I was stunned. She apparently dozed off during that part of our vows where I said, “I promise never to muck up lasagna.” Certainly not the weirdest wedding vows ever, but still something I took very seriously.

The result was magnificent, beautiful, and delicious. Heck, during prep I told Krystal they were upgraded from “easy” to make to “fun” to make. So, without further adieu, I present my first guest post on this blog. E made…


Lasagna Rolls

Overall: five-star

Lasagna Rolls

Un-photoshopped proof that I am useful in the kitchen.

After digging through the weird and boring lasgana recipes on Pinterest, Kelly’s recipe promised salvation. Not only did it come with a great story of failure and redemption (#eInjectingDramaAndHashTags), but it was straight-forward and simple. I thought I was being Minnesota Nice when I told Krystal I wanted to give it 5 stars, but despite her usual brutal critiques she said “well duh” and sealed the deal. Further points were earned by the recipe for being so delicious that when I skipped a step, the tastiness prevailed! (Recipe here, from Something Shiny.)

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Chipotle Cheeseburger with Chipotle Mayo Saved My Sense of Taste

Is it a secret that we like spice? It hasn’t always been this way, my friends. I used to be afraid to order anything that could potentially have spice to it at all. I wasn’t that far off from my mother-in-law who thinks ketchup is spicy. I’m not joking. (There’s also an urban legend that says she thinks Snickers are spicy too, but I’m not sure if I believe that one.) Now we seek the spice out! The other day we ordered a Mexican sushi roll – because it sounded good – and the waitress said, “Are you sure? It’s hot!” Ooo, sign us up for two then! When it arrived E and I cautiously tested the waters to find, no spice.

I think we killed our tastebuds. It’s a legitimate concern, people. Kind of like when your parents would say, “Don’t make that face, it could get stuck like that.” Turns out your parents could be right. My parents hosted a girl from Pakistan for a semester and she thought the food around here was drab, dull, and flavorless. Sure, add a little spice to your spaghetti – but chocolate cake isn’t supposed to be spicy. My mom was constantly lecturing her about how she was killing her tastebuds with all that spice. I argued that she just had a different flavor palate than we did. Well as I was swallowing my non-spiced sushi  I was acutely aware of the fact that my mom might just be right.

Then E made these burgers. Turns out my tastebuds are just fine. Holy hot mama. To be honest I think the heat is mostly in the mayo – so you could tone things down there. (Also, the jury is still out on whether E has killed his tastebuds. He was eating the chipotle peppers with adobo sauce as he was chopping them. Yikes.)


Chipotle Cheeseburger with Chipotle Mayo

Overall: four-star

This burger screams Corona. Perfect combo.

This was a recipe from a low carb book that we promptly carbed up (it’s a word, trust me) with a baguette for a bun. The burgers were great, but I don’t think they’d be great as a stand alone – add an avocado or something. I also think the mayo is excellent. I’d cut down on the heat some next time, but it’d be great on chicken or as a dip for veggies. (Recipe here, from 1001 Low Carb Recipes.)

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And I once ate a big heaping bowl of salt: Using salt to prep your steak

Tips & Techniques: Salting your Steak

futurama_bender_cooking_chickenFry: Egh, that’s the saltiest thing I’ve ever tasted! And I once ate a big heaping bowl of salt!”
Amy: “Bender, is this salt water?”
Bender: “It’s salt with water in it, if that’s what you mean.”
Fry: “My vision’s fading, I think I’m gonna die!”
Bender: “There was nothing wrong with that food! The salt level was 10% less than a lethal dose.”
Dr. Zoidberg: Uh oh. I shouldn’t have had seconds.

Name that show! If you don’t know the answer, go watch Futurama right now (S: 1, E: 7). I’ll wait.

Back?

Ok, lets get back to what we’re here for. Me eating a heaping bowl of salt. Not really though. I mean I used a heaping bowl of salt to prepare a steak, I expected it to taste like I used a heaping bowl of salt, but it wasn’t the saltiest thing I ever ate. Not by a long shot. It was, actually, one of the best steaks I’ve ever had.

Here’s the deal, basically there is a newish technique of salting your steaks to the max, letting them rest, and rinsing the salt off before you grill. This breaks down the protein in the steak to give you all the tender flavor and texture of a expensive steak (even though you bought a cheap “grill steak”).

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