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alt How's everyone doing? Today's shaping up to be another rainy day and I'm very happy that I don't have a basement. Areas everywhere here on the east coast seem to be flooding - any problems in your area?

I'm feeling good today, hopeful and happy. I'm stopping myself from starting a million and one projects because I know if I do jump into them all I'll lose time/focus on the many projects I already have happening. This is a problem with me; I'll often get into the mood to start as many different things as I can and then end up not getting anything done. I have to focus.

Speaking of staying focused, this weekend was awesome. (No, those two things DON'T have anything to do with one another. Why do you ask?) Had friends over one night, talked late into the evening, then spent the rest of the weekend with Maria. We used one of our gift cards to go to our favorite local restaurant, a nice little Italian place where the owner always seems to be there and recognizes us on sight (Soffritto Grill). We talked with the owner, Giovanni, when he came over to ask how my seafood Alfredo came out a week or so ago.

See, I wanted to make something special for Maria but had never actually made seafood Alfredo. Soffritto Grill has the best scallops we've ever had so I called and asked him if he'd be willing to share his secret, and he did! I didn't actually expect that. He was happy to hear it came out really well. Not perfect, but well. He suggested I practice every weekend and have Maria be my tester; she thought that sounded like a good idea.

Then we came home, spent some time watching movies and just had a really nice night. The weekend was relatively calm, relaxed, and generally nice. It was good to get some time with my wife.

How was your weekend?
jmfargo: (Default)

Good morning LJ land! I hope you're all waking up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Actually, that tail thing is kind of freaky. Maybe you should have it checked.

Yesterday I made what I called "deconstructed sushi" for lunch. I made (long-grained) sushi rice, had to quickly sear some Ahi Tuna that had gone a little more fishy that I like for sushi, sliced up some avocado and threw it all together. Maria had seconds!

Then last night, because I was feeling adventurous, I threw together a seafood Alfredo sauce with shrimp and scallops. The owner of our favorite local restaurant helped me with the scallops; I called him and asked if they had a "secret" he could share because their scallops are always perfect. He said there was no secret, but made a few suggestions that helped. It turned out awesome.

Today? I'm going in to work today and I think I start actually taking over some of the pet classes. I'm really nervous but I'm also very excited because I get to see puppies! Other than that, not much going on that I can think of. I'll be making an Ahi Tuna salad with wasabi dressing tonight that should be delicious. Any suggestions?

What's going on today with you?
jmfargo: (Default)
Tonight I made something I've never made before and I just want to catalog it slightly with a couple thoughts on what I would change if I make it again:

I made Thai Red Curry with chicken and potatoes. There's not much more to the dish except onions, garlic, coconut milk and some broth. It was absolutely delicious and even though it was extremely simple (in prep, execution and ingredients) it passed the wife test. Maria quite enjoyed it.

Next time I would only do two things differently:

1. Make more so that I can have leftovers the next day and not just Maria. Of course the fact that she's having it for lunch AND dinner and not complaining about the repeat makes me feel really good about my cooking skills.

2. Add chicken broth instead of vegetable. The chicken broth would have enhanced the overall flavor and brought out the chicken a little bit more.

Delicious. This is definitely something I have to make again. Often.
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A while ago, I made a list of all the animals I had eaten. I made a vow that I would add to that list, and that I would make it more comprehensive.

So that's what I've done. These are the meats I have eaten so far. Unfortunately I've only been able to add "Ox" to the list since March. I am trying to find new meats to add, but they're difficult to find in this area.

If you see something that needs to be broken up even more, please let me know. This is a work in progress. A constant work in progress. I want to eat more meats!

Red Meat
Wild Boar

White Meat


Cornish Game Hen

Freshwater fish

Saltwater fish
Dolphin (Mahi Mahi)
Sea Bass
Alaskan Halibut
Red Snapper
Mako Shark

Misc. Seafood
Bering Strait Crab
King Crab
Dungeness Crab
Snow Crab
Blue Crab
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I didn't realize how out of sorts I was feeling until Sunday afternoon. By then I was calm, cool, relaxed, and everything was fine. I would have told you before that I was fine, but looking back I realize I was feeling a bit stressed for some reason or another.

The magic thing that calmed me down, put me into a good mood? Cooking. Lots of it.

Maria fell asleep on the couch watching me play Legend of Zelda, and I didn't want to keep playing because it might wake her up again. I went out to the kitchen and realized I had a bunch of big-pot meals to cook.

I started with the chili. I had ground the pork earlier in the day, so that was good to go. I threw everything together, put it on simmer, and moved to the next project, a vegetarian sloppy Joe thing done in the slow-cooker. It was quick and easy. Once that was done I moved on to trying to make Zuppa Tuscana, the Olive Garden sausage soup. This one took the most work, but the least amount of time.

As we drove out to dinner (these meals are for the rest of the week) I felt calmer, collected. It was a good feeling. By the time we got back, the food was done, ready to be packaged and put away.

I don't know what it is about working in the kitchen, but any chance I get to get out there and do an all-day cooking marathon, I take it. It's better than therapy.

Meat Candy

Aug. 19th, 2008 07:18 pm
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Liquid smoke is a fantastic little bottle of liquid, that surprisingly tastes like smoke. It's the next best thing to actually smoking your own meat, as long as you don't use too much and you're slow cooking whatever it is you're using it on.

Or is it the next best thing?

I was dead-set on making this Kalua Pig recipe for dinner tomorrow. In order to do that, since it has a 20-hour cook time, I'd have to start tonight. I got out all three ingredients, except


No liquid smoke.


Well, let's use the internet and see what's similar to liquid smoke. "If you can't find liquid smoke, the best thing to do is smoke your meat." Well, that's unhelpful.

What do I have that might impart a smokey flavor if I slow cook it with the pork? What could I possibly have?

Oh. Yeah!

Meat candy. Bacon! Smoked over hardwood (at least, mine is), and very smokey in and of itself, plus it will help keep the meat nice and wet during the long cooking process.

This should be interesting, and delicious. Hopefully.

If you see a flaw in this plan, you have until 9:30 PM EST to correct me, because then I turn on the cooker and make no changes until dinner time tomorrow. Please make any suggestions you may have before that time.


Aug. 15th, 2008 12:17 pm
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I entered the local crab cake recipe and cook off contest this morning after about a month of trying to perfect the recipe. I can't say that it's perfect, or that I even wrote it out that well, but I'm trying, and it should be at least pretty decent. My one hope is that there were only 7 other entries, since 8 people go to the final. A guy can hope.

This got Maria and I looking around for other recipe/cooking competitions. I don't know that what I can do in the kitchen is "up to snuff" for competitions like this, but if I don't try then I'll never know. I watch these things on Food Network all the time, and often hear myself saying "Wow, I can do better than that!" Well, time to prove it!

Plus, some of these competitions give out big money. That wouldn't hurt either. If I win the chicken recipe contest I'm entering, I'll have enough money to tear out our current kitchen, blow out a wall, make it bigger, redo it, buy all new appliances, upgrade my computer, and maybe still have some left over in savings!

So, I think I'm going to go back into the kitchen now and work on some recipes. Maybe I can come up with something that takes 30 minutes to cook in the kitchen, and in the 30 minutes make a meal that wins me more than a year's salary?

That would be nice.
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Tonight I'm roasting a chicken. It's fairly well-seasoned, I believe, but having had my own roasted chicken, I know that I make mistakes quite often. Normally I have a very flavorful skin and first layer of meat, but what's underneath becomes a little plain.

I'm hoping you can help me. I'm looking for some kind of a sauce to go with the chicken to help with this issue, and I know that lots of you know a good amount about cooking.

Here's what's on the chicken so far:


A very basic rub, flavorful, simple, and tasty.

Can you think of any sauce that would go well with that? I'll also have stuffing and corn, but the sauce doesn't have to compliment them.
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I just finished making the lemony mascarpone. It came out well, and though I've never made it before this, I'm fairly certain I did it how I should have. Next time, though, I have to find a place to buy cheesecloth. No matter what they say, a couple sheets of paper towel just don't cut it.

Now it's time to open up the blue lump crab and try making those crabcakes on the fly. No recipe, because I'm trying to make my own for a competition. If nothing else, this should be very interesting, and enlightening.

Only problem is, one pint of heavy cream makes a lot more mascarpone than I thought it would, and the two to four dollops I'm going to need tonight won't even make a dent in it.

Time to make lots of new recipes, I guess!


Jul. 2nd, 2008 11:46 am
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Bacon Spinach Tomato sandwiches for lunch coming up in about a half hour. I wonder if my wife is going to remember that I asked her to stop by the store to pick up the tomato portion of lunch before coming home? It's only a third of the name, not too important, so if she forgets I'll have to figure something else out.

I wonder when my own tomato fruits are finally going to go red so I don't have to worry about having my wife pick them up from the store on her way home for lunch.

On that note, I wonder how I know when my Jalapeno peppers are completely ripe? The card that came with them said they mature to red, but I don't think I've ever seen a red jalapeno. Is that just me?

Well, time to go start cooking some bacon. Hopefully it turns out nice and crispy, perfectly tasty, and goes well on bread with spinach and tomato.

I'm wondering if anyone's going to pick up on the fact that I'm just rambling.
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What do you folks think about cooking competitions?

I watch Food Network all the time, and am enamored by the thought of getting into some big competitions, but at the same time not sure how to go about even trying to enter one.

Well, that's not entirely true. I know how to enter one, and probably will. The fact that the main ingredient is something I've never eaten in my life doesn't daunt me one bit. I have enough time between now and the cut-off date to come up with a great recipe, but getting there might be expensive if I have to keep buying lots of blue lump crab to experiment on.

Guess I'll just hope I get it right the first time!

One of the best things about me wanting to try something like this is how firmly behind me my wife is. Maria is amazingly supportive, and while I think it's all a big trick to get me to cook her lots of tasty food, the fact that she is not only behind me, but is also pushing me, is a huge boost to my mood.

I'm a lucky guy to have a wife like her, even if she is just in it for the food.
jmfargo: (Default)
Okay, I need your help folks, and I know there are people out there that can give me GREAT ideas. I'm trying to cook a nice meal tomorrow for Maria and myself. I'm not exactly stumped, and I have some thoughts as to what I want, but the exacts are missing.

Here's what I want: a meatless (yes, I'm back to eating meat, but we just don't have any right now) taco that is filling, and tastes fantastic.

Here's what I have: Kidney beans, taco shells, LOTS of cheddar cheese, lettuce, sweet tomatoes, most basic condiments (but NO salsa), and just about any dried spice I could ever need*.

How would you make this and have it be tasty? You have all day, as I don't need this until about 4 PM EST, and I'm posting it before midnight, so if you have to think, look around, research, feel free. I just need a little help.

And if there's an ingredient you think you need that I don't mention, let me know, I have more.

*Okay, so no Heart of Paradise, or whatever it is, but I only just heard about that like two weeks ago, and have never used it.
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Maria's ill, having taken Friday off as a vacation day the Universe appears to have decided that it would be best if she were punished, and out cold on the couch with a stomach flu for the entire weekend.

She offered to buy dinner tonight for us, as I've been "very nice and helpful." Though I would normally jump at this offer, the other day we decided that, in an effort to save gas, we should make our shopping trips bigger, spending all at once what we would normally space out over a couple times in a week or more.

$220 later, we have a house full of food. I'm not sure I've ever spent that much on groceries for two people, and if this doesn't last us for quite a while, I'll be a bit disappointed. For this reason, I thought going out for some dinner might be rather frivolous.

Of course, that doesn't mean I feel like cooking. For lunch I made a spinach, shrimp, and cilantro salad, with tomatoes and crunchy bits out of a shaker. That was enough cooking for the day, really; mind, the shrimp was cooked yesterday.

I love cooking, but some days I just don't want to bother with turning on the stove. Anyone else feel like that? What do you normally do when that feeling comes around? Do you just go out for dinner, or make something simple? I'm thinking tater tots and pre-made pirogies, a fantastically unhealthy, but ridiculously simple dinner if I just nuke the pirogies and do the tater tots up in the oven.

But somehow even that seems like too much.

Some days, I actually start to think I'm lazy, and that I should do something about it.

(Wait for it)

Then I realize that would be too much work.

Super May

May. 5th, 2008 03:55 pm
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Maria and I started something this month, calling this month "Super May." We made a list of ten or so "Super" things that we wanted to focus on, and every day we have to make sure we do at least a few of these items. They're not "To Do" items, more like a list of categories that our actions should fall into.

For example, the few I can think of off the top of my head are, in no particular order:

Super Savings
Super Suppers
Super Productivity
Super House
Super Us

Super Savings would be eating at home instead of going out, making sure we turn off lights, buying stuff on sale as opposed to the other stuff, etc. The others are similar.

It's fun, so far. We haven't done so well on Super Savings, but the other bits have been fantastic. We'll be working on Super Savings starting tonight, with me cooking a Super Supper of vegetable stew, made from all fresh ingredients.

Well, mostly fresh. The spices I don't have fresh yet, so those aren't. Everything else was fresh. I like making things fresh, and have only recently realized that this is the best way to go for health, taste, and fantastic meals.

What's my point?

I don't really have one. Too often I think I write without a point, try to make one up, and fail. So, I don't have a point. I'm just letting you see a little bit into my life, and thought this would be interesting to share. The next month should be pretty interesting if we really stick to doing things this way, which I'm thinking we will.

Oh, yeah, Super Healthy too. Which is why I'm dressed for the gym as I leave now to pick up my wife from work.
jmfargo: (Default)
Name your favorite...

1. Candy: Lego Block Candy! You can totally, like, build houses and stuff out of them before you eat them! And they have banana flavor! That's just awesome!

2. Cookie: Boring old chocolate chip, but it has to be done correctly! I'm not really a cookie guy unless they're relatively fresh baked, fall-apart gooey, with melty chocolate chips.

3. Donut: Sugar glazed. I have no idea why I'm fat. :)

4. Cold drink: Flavored Iced Tea. Usually Peach, but I've had a fantastic strawberry one as well.

5. Hot beverage: Good hot chocolate, with thick whipped cream on top. The hot chocolate has to be thick and milky, meant for sipping rather than gulping. No marshmallows. They are an Abomination Unto Nuggan!
jmfargo: (Default)
Last night was Wednesday night which around here means Dungeons and Dragons with Dinner night. I usually cook something I know people will like either because they've had it before and enjoyed it (ham or stew) or it's a recipe that sounds similar to what I know their tastes are (like last night). I knew people had enjoyed my pulled pork in the crockpot, so sloppy joes were the next step up, and it was made with ground chicken instead of beef to cut down on the fat for those of us who are watching my figure.

Dinner was well received and enjoyed by all but one friend who warned me ahead of time that he would have to get something else before coming because sloppy joes disagree with him in a violent manner. I would have been offended, I think, if he had just showed up with food and not told me before-hand but since he did it wasn't an issue.

So dinner was good, and then we moved on to D&D. I had been looking forward to this particular night of me running D&D for a week or so because I had what I thought was a sure-fire way to get everybody excited, worried about their characters, and having a good time. I really strive to keep their interest, and make sure they enjoy the game, so I was really looking forward to the upcoming game.

Then the game started. I suddenly felt all the creativity and interest fell from my body and through the floor below me and pool somewhere in the basement. Everything I had planned, all the little intricacies, the things that I thought would make it most fun, just left me. I was bereft of creativity and felt that I handled things very woodenly.

About halfway through the game, somewhere around 8:30 that night things came back to me and I was able to salvage my game for myself. From the reactions of my players after the game they might not have even noticed my sudden attack of ennui early on. I was glad for that - I didn't want my problems to ruin their good time.

So all in all it was an good night. Good food shared with good friends, and a game that was liked by all. I don't think you can ask for much more than that.


Jun. 4th, 2006 11:25 pm
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Went out with a few friends tonight to celebrate the college graduation of our youngest friend Laura, and it was fun to see her not be super quiet - she seemed to have a good time which was really cool since the night was all about her*.

First we went to a steak and seafood place called the Boston Hotel Steak and Seafood restaurant. I've been there before, and knew that their king crab was reasonably priced for around here, that the food was good, and that it was a perfect dive atmosphere for the group that we had. All in all, it was pretty nice to me. I hope everyone enjoyed their food as much as I did, but I don't know that they did - I was the last one savoring my food, so my assumption is they stuffed it down to get the bad taste out of the way. People do that, right?

Afterwards we tried to go bowling, and it was closed. Closed so completely that the owner leaving it gave us a look for asking if it was closed and where we might be able to go to bowl since he said it was closed. Ended up he couldn't think of any bowling alley that would be open on a Sunday "this time of year." So we went for ice cream. Yay Dairy Queen!

Following a brief yet messy and satisfying ice cream fight (I won) we decided to try one more bowling place. Earl was outgoing and proactive like normal, and called ahead to see if they were open.

They were, and they had $1 games for the night! Jackpot!

The only part about bowling that will be spoken of is the fact that I won the first game with a 124 - probably my best game, ever. After that, well, we shall not speak of the fact that I couldn't break 100 if my life had depended on it. It was my shoes. They were sticky. Or sliding. Whichever is worse.

Great night. I'm always happy to hang out with good friends and get in some good times. I think everyone had fun, and that means a lot to me. I just like it when plans work out for everyone. I'm strange like that.

Now? Definately bed time. I've had a long day, and I don't even know if I have work tomorrow.

*Well, her and good food. What? Good food goes with everything.

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