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Lamb Chops and Rice Pilaf

Monday, April 18, 2011

Time for another food blog!

One of the hardest things to learn when starting to cook is how to time your dinner so everything is ready at the same time. The only thing you can do is practice, practice, practice. In time, you'll know roughly how long it takes to steam brussel sprouts (about 10-15 minutes) or sear a 1" steak (about 7 minutes per side). This also varies by your stovetop and pans, so your cooking time may be different than mine.

Practice, practice, practice.

I also recommend watching copious episodes of Iron Chef or Chopped.

Tonight I made lamb chops and rice for dinner. Using my practice, practice, practice for multi tasking dinner, I got everything together at roughly the same time in about 25 minutes.

While not practical for every meal, when you have a very fast cooking meal, I recommend having all your ingredients pre rinsed, chopped, and ready to go in bowls. Professional chefs call this "mise en place". It is French meaning, "everything in place". My lamb chops will take a mere 10 minutes to cook, so it's important that I have all my ingredients ready. I will not have time to chop and drop, or things will burn or get overcooked.

- Lamb chops seasoned with herbes de provence, salt, pepper, and a dash of olive oil.
- A bottle of my favorite wine for drinking, Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Merlot. I'll use a tiny bit for a red wine sauce at the end.
- Fresh brussel sprouts, cleaned and cut.
- Seasoned pilaf rice package, where I will add chopped onions and bell peppers, frozen peas, and chicken stock. Normally I make my own seasoned rice, but tonight I am tired and need something quick, so a packaged rice will do.
- Sliced bell peppers and tomatoes for a salad. A red wine vinegrette salad dressing. Not show is the lettuce, which is already washed and in a salad spinner.



Remarkably, I am only going to be using two pans for this. My saute pan, and a steamer pot. The rice will cook in the lower half, and the brussel sprouts will steam above in the steamer section. Nice, eh?



Brussel sprouts are placed in the steamer.



I turn my stove on. Medium high for the lamb chops, and medium for the steamer pan. While my pans are heating, I make my salads.



When steamer pan is hot, I add bell peppers and onions and saute. When they have softened slightly, I add the chicken stock, rice, and seasoning. Peas do not go in yet.



Brussel sprouts are added to the top of the rice to be steamed - about 15 minutes on the clock.



By now, my saute pan is ready for the lamb chops.



While lamb chops are sizzling, rice is simmering, and brussels are steaming, I start loading up the dishwasher and wiping down counters.

5 minutes left on the clock, I add the frozen peas.



I take the lamb chops out of the pan and on a warm dish to rest. To the pan that has a lovely brown frond from the searing lamb chops, I add about 1/4 cup red wine, and couple tablespoons of chicken stock. When that starts to simmer, I add 1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in cold chicken stock to thicken the sauce slightly. I whisk it until the sauce thickens.



Everything is ready! Time to plate!

Scoop of rice pilaf, steamed brussel sprouts, and seared lamb chops with a red wine sauce.



Served with salad and a glass of wine.

Over half of this meal is veggies. The lamb portion is small faction of this meal, but very, very flavorful. Believe me, we have very full, happy bellies.

Total Calories: 623
Carbohydrates: 65g (48.3%)
Fat: 19g (31.1%)
Protein: 28g (20.6%)

I could have had a Whopper Jr and small fries for dinner for 600 calories, or I could have my salad, lamb chops with red wine sauce, rice pilaf, brussel sprouts, and a glass of wine.

How much would you pay for this in a restaurant? $25-30? Would you believe this meal cost me less than $10?

2 lamb chops, 3oz total: $2.60
Glass of Wine: $3 ($12 for the bottle, about 4 glasses total)
Brussel Sprouts: $1.50
Salad: $0.75
Rice: $0.65
Total: ~ $8.50

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANDEENNATE 4/19/2011 12:10PM

    I love it!

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THINRONNA 4/19/2011 11:02AM

    What a gorgeous plate of food! I love your play by play! I also am so impressed that you are able to take meaningful pictures along the way. Sometimes I think I should blog about food but then I never really remember to take all of the pictures that I should. And the pictures that you take make everything look so good!

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ARCHIMEDESII 4/19/2011 10:43AM

    YUM !!! Your dinner looks wonderful !! I haven't had a nice lamb chop in years. Too expensive. At least, the prices around here aren't cheap. Thus the reason I eat more chicken or pork.

Although, I splurged. I added some nice Italian hot sausage to my sauce this week. There's nothing like the flavor of a good Italian sausage.

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SEDGEY 4/18/2011 11:56PM

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Fast, Easy Roast Chicken and Veg Dinner

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I haven't done a food blog in a while. I've been busy with visiting friends and pet projects. Tonight, I remembered to grab my camera while making dinner.

Sunday roast chicken is one of my favorite meals. However, with sweltering Georgia heat just days away, my roasting pans will soon go into summer hibernation. Hot ovens and 90-104F days just do not mix.

Roast chicken used to conjure up images of all day cooking, so I reserved it mostly for the weekends. I'd still rather have fun on weekends than cook all day. A found a recipe for "Fast Roast Chicken" in a recent publication of "Everyday Food". I did a double take. Say what? Fast roast chicken?

Apparently, what they did is cut off the backbone of the chicken, spread it flat in a roasting rack, and baked it at 450F. I've tried it 3 times now, and it works perfectly for me. I can cook a 5-6lb chicken in about 45-60 minutes! The normal way with the whole bird takes 2 hours or more.

Tonight, I decided to make Sunday roast chicken and roast veggies. I cut up potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, and bell pepper, put them in a baking dish with a smidge of olive oil, about 1/4 cup water, and an herb de provence seasoning blend.

I cut off the backbone of a whole chicken. (If you don't know how to do this, I highly recommend learning. It's easier than you think. Do a google or youtube search. There are so many how to videos these days.) I made a lemon herb seasoning that I stuffed under the skin.

Roughly...

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons herbs de provence
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (very fine)
1/2 squeezed lemon (about 1 tablespoon juice)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
couple of grinds of rock salt



What to do with that backbone you cut off? Don't throw it away! Make a chicken broth with it! I threw mine in a crockpot with extra onions, carrots, and celery that weren't bad, but starting to wilt. This will become a base for the onion soup I plan to make tomorrow night.



Also being made is a chocolate-orange gelato. I made the mixture the night before, and I just added it to the ice cream maker for dessert tonight.



While that was all cooking, I was writing this blog to you, my Spark friends!

Here's the final product after a mere 45 minutes in the oven! A fully cooked, roast chicken and potato/veggie side dish! Very healthy, and pretty rapido for a roast chicken!



While I finished uploading that picture, my chicken has finished resting, so it's ready to be carved. Dinner tonight, and roast chicken for sandwiches and salads for the week.

If you'll excuse me, dinner is waiting.

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  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THINRONNA 4/19/2011 10:57AM

    Thank you for the good ideas. We have a chicken in the fridge. Maybe we should try it. I love your food blogs!

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ARCHIMEDESII 4/18/2011 12:00PM

    YUM !! Now, I want roast chicken for dinner !! Will probably have ravioli though. That's yummy too. Of course, no gelato here. sigh.

Love your food blogs !!

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KAYOTIC 4/18/2011 9:15AM

    Yum, great tips....I was going to suggest you cook the chicken in the crockpot so as not to heat up the house with the oven, but you're already using it! I'll have to remember the stock tip...

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MARYJOVINCENT 4/18/2011 7:52AM

    Looks delicious. Can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing.

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GIVENTOFLY_ 4/18/2011 6:15AM

  Yum! I need gelato tips!

Tonight I made the garlic/brown sugar chicken off of SparkRecipes, and it was delicious...keep up the recipes!

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SEDGEY 4/18/2011 1:08AM

    Awesome!

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BUTEAFULL 4/17/2011 8:37PM

    I'm drooling looking at the photos, and thanks for all the instructions, tips it really helps

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SNUGGLY4U 4/17/2011 7:50PM

    Love this! And it looks delicious!

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All Pets and Plants Survived a Weekend

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I had a friend from Seattle come for a visit, so I was away for the weekend. It gave me a chance to test my "vacation" mode for my plants and pets.

Big concern was my balcony vegetable garden. Last year I started growing tomatoes with great success. But when we went on vacation, they all died. Container plants need more water than yard plants. So this year, I built my container garden with "vacation" mode in mind. I set up a lot of my containers to handle "self watering" pots.

You know those Aqua Globes, as seen on TV? I found a used wine bottle works great, with more capacity.

This is an empty gewurztraminer wine bottle being used to auto water my pepper plants. This works on the same principle as the Aqua Globes. Insert into the soil so it creates a seal. Then as the soil dries, it pulls water from the bottle.



The cats just got a big bowl of food and water, and a clean litter box. Evidence abounds that they ate, pooped, and napped. They were healthy and well, and meowing at us happily when we got home. They have been following me from room to room.

The new pets, the fish and snail, also made it through a night unsupervised. I discovered before I left, however, that the betta was sick. It turns out his loss of appetite was not due to "hara hachi bunme", but due to the poor conditions he lived under in the pet store. Poor betta. My first clue there was something wrong was the second day I had him. The water was unusually clouded for a freshly poured tank. The water had a milky white haze, usually indicative of a bacterial or algae infection. That was pretty unusual for a brand new bowl - I just got it. I added the snail, thinking it may be an algae bloom. It got worse.

Time for evasive action. I separated the fish and snail. I put the snail into a small container. I noticed the betta had a funny white patch on his head. I changed 50% of the betta's water from his bowl every day, and changed 100% of it every 2 days, rinsing the bowl and all bowl ornaments with vinegar thoroughly. (Vinegar as long as it is rinsed is non toxic to fish, but washing with bleach can be bad, unless a dechlorinator is used before adding fish.) Basically trying to reduce or eliminate any infections from the water. I also added a single rock salt chip into his bowl with each cleaning. He's a freshwater fish, so it's crucial not to raise the salinity too much. Adding a single rock salt chip won't harm him, but is bad for any bacteria or fungus that might have hitched a ride. Before we left for the weekend, I fed him, then changed his water again, rinsed the bowl and ornaments with vinegar, and added a rock chip again. I left him with a pristine clean water. I left him with no food to decay and muck up with the water. (Bettas are fine without food for a day or two.)

The treatment seemed to work. When I got home, he was swimming happily in his bowl - which was still very clear and clean looking, even without a water filter. He ate all his food ravenously. The strange white patch is gone. I'm calling him cured! I bought medicine just in case my "home cure" water treatment didn't work, but looks like I didn't need it. Yay!

Maybe I should have been a vet! emoticon

BTW, betta is now regularly sleeping/resting/playing on his leaf "hammock".

I've bought an aquarium, and set it up with live plants and decorations. However, I'm having trouble balancing the pH of the water due to the live plants. I wanted to make a semi "natural" aqua scape, but it is presenting challenges I didn't expect. I feel like I'm in chemistry class again with all my water testing and pH tests!

The live plants are lovely, but they are making the pH too high. I've never had an aquarium with live plants, so this took me by surprise. I want to adjust it to neutral pH before I add the fish and snail. I have a piece of driftwood on order, which is supposed to naturally lower the pH. I'm trying to avoid chemical additives, as I want to try to make a semi "natural" balanced ecosystem. I also think the driftwood will look cool.

Here's what the tank currently looks like. I tried to make a slightly "asian" theme since the betta is from the rice paddies of "Siam".


  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VHALKYRIE 4/17/2011 9:45PM

    Sedgey: At some point I want to make a saltwater tank to remind me of diving, but that will have to wait until I get the kinks worked out of this one!

Haha, I wondered if anyone would recognize the bottle of wine! ;)

Ronna: I went to the pet store today to get some supplies. Data is lucky I rescued him. I checked the other bettas to see if they were sick like Data. Almost all were in a state of disease - most of them worse! Data was the healthiest one! I guess in my enthusiasm, I wasn't paying close enough attention. About a quarter of the display had dead bettas - it was sad. Especially since the store manager was standing right next to it, asking me if I needed any help - did he not notice all the floating fish??

Anyway, I feel glad that I was able to bring Data out of that. I feel like I rescued him now! He seems to be healing, and the sickly white patch on his head is gone. I didn't really know for sure what was going on, but I figured he was in unsanitary conditions at the pet shop. I hoped that just a clean water change each day would be enough, and his immune system was healthy enough to fight off any infection. It seems that was the right thing to do.

Comment edited on: 4/17/2011 9:48:30 PM

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THINRONNA 4/17/2011 3:52AM

    Wow! Good for you figuring out how to cure Data! You never cease to amaze me.

I too will steal your trick for watering plants when we go away...if I ever manage to get any planted!

The aquarium looks beautiful!

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SEDGEY 4/17/2011 12:21AM

    Fetzer, nice choice. ;) I love that idea. I will borrow it this summer for some of my house plants and outside containers since we will (are) gone about a week at a time. This time of year is fine, but a few will need a little extra when (if) the weather warms up.

Congrats on curing Data! I'm sure he'll groove on his new digs. Looks very nice and makes me want to go diving!

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A Trick My Fish is Teaching Me

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I bought Data the Betta because I miss having a fish. I grew up with aquariums, and I haven't had a fish in a very long time. I'm becoming obsessed with the idea of creating an aquarium with a mini self sustaining ecosystem, but I'm doing more research about what I need to do. For now, Data the Betta and Spot the Snail are happy enough in their bowl.

When I got the fish, the girl at the checkout counter told me that she taught her betta tricks. That gave me the idea that I wanted to teach my fish tricks! I'm sure it is doable. I had goldfish and bettas as a kid. I can say quite definitively that bettas are more intelligent than goldfish. Goldfish are like pekingese of the fish world (cute, but not bright), and bettas are like a tiger (when you look at him, he looks right back at you).

Ever seen a betta chase and stalk live food? Last night I caught a small insect that was crawling on my desk, and I put it in the betta's bowl. He was keen, and lightning fast. It's incredible.

You can teach almost any animal to respond to stimuli with food rewards. I taught my cat to sit and beg. Maybe I can teach my betta to sit on a leaf on command, too.

He is already recognizing that when the purple ring goes in the bowl, it means food is coming. This morning I put the purple ring in the bowl, and he immediately came up near the water surface, awaiting the menu. I dropped in some pellets, dried shrimp, and flakes, to see what he would like.

He took a nibble of this, a nibble of that, then swam off. He didn't "clean off his plate". He ate what he needed, then stopped eating.

I got my super high tech fish bowl cleaner - an old turkey baster - and removed the uneaten morsels so it wouldn't dirty the bowl. As I was doing so, I was thinking Data the Betta had something to teach me. About the lesson of not overeating, or eating when not hungry.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ANDEENNATE 4/13/2011 11:25AM

    what a great lesson!

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ARCHIMEDESII 4/13/2011 10:31AM

    My former boss used to keep a HUGE aquarium in his office. In it, he kept a brittle star and some shrimp/lobster type crustecean. The brittle star was a fascinating animal. Watched him when he put a pellet of food at the end of a stick. you should have seen that animal lunge for that food !!

When I was a kid, I had goldfish. not nearly as exciting as the brittle star.

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VHALKYRIE 4/12/2011 12:19PM

    Yes, indeed. ;D

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SEDGEY 4/12/2011 11:59AM

    So Data is teaching you "hara hachi bunme"! :)

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THINRONNA 4/12/2011 11:31AM

    Very clever fish and very clever you for learning from your fish!

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MYTURN11 4/12/2011 8:56AM

    Data the Betta is one cool teacher!

There was this tech guy here at work from India. He said he only ate very small amounts of food and always ate very slowly, and only ate when he was hungry and ate only until his hunger was satisfied - never went beyond - sometimes a few spoonfulls of beans. He was 6' and trim. emoticon

Comment edited on: 4/12/2011 8:57:36 AM

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TEDDYTEDDY 4/12/2011 8:45AM

    Yesterday I was on a clear liquid diet prepping for colonoscopy and I thought I would be ravenous...but surprisingly I was not...And here it is the next day (colonoscopy scheduled in about 2 hours) and I am still not hungry.

As I recall from the last one I had 3 years ago, I will be very hungry and thirsty afterwards and probably won't get anything to eat for another 5 hours from now.

I need to remember this for when I am back to "eating normally." I need to remember to stop eating before I lose track of my portions and start with smaller portions than before. Animals seem to have better instincts when it comes to this but we can train ourselves to emulate them in this way.

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CAM2438 4/12/2011 8:10AM

    Good lesson. I think this is a great observation!

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Morning Routine (and aquarium update)

Monday, April 11, 2011

With all the pets and plants I've added to the household, my morning routine is getting quite structured!

6:30am - Wake up, feed cats, empty litter boxes, make coffee
6:45am - Water plants, check on fish
7:00am - Make breakfast - bowl of cereal, yogurt and frozen blueberries
7:15am - Start work

I'd like to get morning exercise in. I'm going to have to get up earlier. Today I'm going to get my exercise done at lunch, because I don't have other errands to run.

Yesterday I bought a pH test kit for my aquarium. I read something online about a health troubleshooting bettas. One of them was "Problem: Fish stays mostly at the bottom and only goes to the top for air. Solution: Check water quality." I thought he was hovering near the bottom because he was getting used to his new environment, but I noticed that some of his colorful scales were peeling back and were black instead of blue. Hmm. So I tested the pH of his water. It came out relatively acidic. I tested the pH of tap water versus Brita filtered water, and discovered the Brita filter makes the pH more acidic! Ack! I thought I was helping to reduce the chlorine levels, but I was altering the pH! Not good!

I drained out half the water, and replaced it with tap water treated with the fish store conditioner to remove the chlorine, then added it to the remainder of the water already in the tank until it was neutral pH. I feel so bad. Poor little guy.

It will probably take a day or two for him to feel better with the water change, I'm guessing.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

THINRONNA 4/11/2011 3:11PM

    Well...I have just read this and the past two blogs. What fun! I am simply amazed that you can train a fish! I never would have thought such a thing was possible! I don't know why...I guess I just never thought of it at all!

The fish is beautiful and the snal is kind of cute. You have created a little part time job for yourself with all that care giving! It really seems like a fulfilling thing...kind of makes me wish that we were more stable to enjoy things like that. We move around too much!

Thank you for the delightful blogs!

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RICEOWL86 4/11/2011 10:51AM

    I have a dog, 2 cats, 2 aquariums, 7 chickens and 3 kids to take care of every morning so I understand how hard it is to get in a morning workout. I've been trying to get up at 5:00 whenever possible to squeeze in a walk. My goal is to do that every day, but so far I've only averaged about 3 days per week. Good luck!

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KELPIE57 4/11/2011 8:32AM

    So much to do!

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