Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Scrambled Eggs in a Mug

I don't usually cook in the microwave. Except for one brief period in high school when I made diet bran muffins (Not particularly good, but very filling) I use the microwave to heat water for tea, or re-heat leftovers. I cook with the stove or the oven, not the microwave.
Still, I was driving into work, listening to NPR, when I heard a recipe that intrigued me so much, I had to try it out. It's not bad. The textures is a bit spongy, and I think it really needs some parsley or herbs, but if you need a really easy and fast breakfast, you could do a lot worse.
You can listen to the original story here:
Scrambled Eggs in a Mug
Cooking Time: 2 minutes
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk (I used yogurt)
  • 2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
    Coat a 12-ounce microwave-safe coffee mug with cooking spray. Add eggs and milk; beat until blended. 
    Eggs, yogurt, cheese, salt and pepper
    Microwave 45 seconds at high power; stir. Microwave 30 to 45 seconds more, or until eggs are almost set (see Note).
    Top with cheese, (I put the cheese in with everything else) season with salt and pepper, and serve.

    This is how it looks in the mug

    It looks better turned out onto a plate, but I think a little parsley would help.

    Monday, February 25, 2013

    Rodeo Parade - 2013

    Last Saturday, I went to a photography seminar downtown. We went early because we knew the rodeo parade was going on, and since we were early, and had cameras, why not take some pictures of the parade setting up?
    In the pictures, there are a lot of people in running gear. This is because the Rodeo Run  (a charity 10k) is before the parade. Remember, always have the runners go before the horses.
    The beginning of the Rodeo Run
    Lots of kids, lots of horses.


    I thought these were a particularly pretty team. I don't know the breed (I do know they're not big enough for Clydesdales) but they were a handsome pair.

    University of Houston twirlers, warming up in Tranquility Park. It was chilly out, I hope twirling warms you up.

    My vote for best costume. I'm not sure why they were wearing technicolor tutus and tiger (?) stripe leg warmers, but they are definitely making a statement. Even their hatbands and shoelaces are color coordinated.
    The University of Houston band. The Aggie band was there, too (they played the Star Spangled Banner and all activity stopped) but I didn't get a good shot of them.

    This was taken after the seminar. No horses or twirlers, but I really like the shot. In case you're wondering, that's the Enron building.


    Friday, February 22, 2013

    Local holiday: Go Texan!

    Today is Go Texan Day! A holiday only celebrated in Houston, and the kickoff to the the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.  Everybody goes into the back of the closet and pulls out their boots, cowboy hats, concho belts and big snazzy belt buckles. It's essentially a western themed version of Halloween.

    Lucchese 1883's - My boots
    I don't have a hat, and I'm not partial to belts, but I love my boots. Everyone needs a pair of cowboy boots. They are the most comfortable shoes ever invented, and they have style to spare.  I currently have a pair of Lucchese's, which I adore, but what girl can live with only one pair of boots?

    I am thinking about getting a pair of red boots. Or a pair of Lanes, which have turquoise soles. 

    But what I really need is rodeo tickets. I love the rodeo. I'm no cowgirl. I can't ride a horse or rope a steer, but I love watching the bucking horses and the calf scramble. 

    The livestock show is always fun (it's amazing how glossy you can get a cow if you brush it enough) and how about the food? There are geniuses at work inventing the most bizarre fried food on the planet. Fried twinkies and  oreos? kid stuff. Chicken-fried bacon? so 2010.  In Texas, we deep fry beer. So I have high hopes for some deep fried craziness this year.

    And in a moment of cosmic synchronicity, today is also National Margarita Day!  Because what better way to end a trail ride than with tequila and lime?

    Friday Fun Video
    A classic from Willie Nelson. It seemed appropriate.

    Wednesday, February 20, 2013

    Improvisation: Chard and Bacon Quiche

    I know kale is the "it" green of the moment. (Aside: How has our culture gotten to the point of having "it" vegetables? Have we nothing of greater moment to discuss? And how lame am I for knowing them? Also, the UN has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa - pass it on.)

    Anyway, back to kale, which is a fine green, but I have a weakness for chard. I love the color.  It's easy to cook with and it's a lot easier to find than kale, at least where I shop. So when I saw chard on sale last week, I grabbed a big bunch without even thinking about recipes.

    That's why I found myself this Monday, looking at a fridge full of groceries, but with no actual plan for any of them. Then it dawned on me: Quiche! everything goes with eggs. So this is my "what do I do with all of this food" improvisation quiche.

    Chard and Bacon Quiche

    Serves 4-6
    • two strips of bacon
    • 8 eggs
    • 1/2 cup of plain yogurt
    • 1/2 cup of parmesan
    • pepper
    • pie crust (pre-made or favorite recipe)
    • 1 bunch chard
    1. Preheat oven to 350degrees Fahrenheit.

    2. Wash, trim and chop the chard. Don't make the pieces too small, you are going to be cooking it down.

    3. Put a large pan on and cook the bacon until crisp. Put the bacon to one side, and drain all but one tablespoon of the rendered fat from the pan.
    4. Wilt the chard in the bacon fat, so that it loses most of its volume but is still bright green. Take off the heat and put to one side.

    5. Put your crust into the pie plate. Put in the wilted chard and top with the crumbled bacon.

    6. Crack your eggs and wisk them together with the parmesan and yogurt. Pepper to taste (I like 1/4 teaspoon). You shouldn't need salt, between the cheese and the bacon, there should be salt enough.

    7. Pour the egg mixture over the chard and bacon, and slide into the oven for 30-45 minutes.


    • The measurements for the parmesan and yogurt are estimates, because I was "in the zone" and cooking by feel. You may need to adjust them to your own tastes.
    • I used parmesan because that is what I had on hand. Gruyere is more traditional in a quiche. If you decided to go that route, put it on top of the chard instead of mixing it in to the eggs.

    Monday, February 18, 2013

    Exercise, bah!

    Last week, I went back to the gym.

    It's not that surprising
    It's conveniently located on my way home. It has pools, loads of equipment, trainers, classes, basketball courts, etc. It's bright, it's light, it's clean and the staff is always friendly and helpful. It's a nice gym.

    But I hate going there, because there is nothing I find duller than working out. I know, it's good for me. But beets are good for me too, and I haven't willingly swallowed a beet in over two years. The television screens are no help (and how many episodes of "The Mentalist" can one person watch, anyway?)

    I have to keep reminding myself that it helps me sleep, lowers my anxiety level, improves my circulation and strengthens my muscles. It might even help me lose some weight.

    But it is so, so boring.  If they came up with a pill that replicated the benefits of exercise, I'd be first in line. Because it's not that I'm lazy. I don't mind work, but the boredom is deadly.

    Am I there yet?

    Friday, February 15, 2013

    Asteroids! Live!

    I am a child of the Space Age, born slightly after the moon landing. There were a lot of space toys and books and games when I was little. Seriously, one of the books we had was "Let's Go to the Moon" which had an accurate description of the workings of a three stage rocket.
    Because we lived in the South my brother and I were taken to the Kennedy Space Center (Florida) and the Johnson Space Center (Texas) multiple times.  The highlight of the trips was the astronaut ice cream, touching the moon rocks, and in the Kennedy Space Center they let you climb in and out of an actual space capsule, which had more buttons than I had ever seen in one place. (I don't think they let you do that anymore.)

    So today I'm excited to hear about the asteroid [Asteroid 2012 DA14] that is going to pass by us today. You can even see it live (Well, sorta. Can you call a lump of frozen rock live? Sorry. I digress.). Slate magazine has a list with links to the observatories showing it here.

    The people in Russia are probably not as enthusiastic. A large meteor exploded over the Ural Mountains this morning, creating a sonic boom that has injured approximately a thousand people. Story here

    It's a dangerous universe out there. All the more reason we should find out all we can.

    Friday Fun Video
    Carl Sagan at his most poetic.

    Thursday, February 14, 2013

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013

    Day After Mardi Gras Soup

    It's the day after Mardi Gras. The beads are swaying gently from the doorknob or scattered across the floor. You're dehydrated, lying in bed (because moving is painfully disorienting), and wondering if drinking enough hurricanes to get a complete set of glasses was as good an idea as it seemed. 

    You need care. You need comfort. You need soup.

    Soup rehydrates. It's doesn't require much chewing or complicated knife skills. It's warm, and the bowl feels comfortingly solid in your hands.  This soup is very simple, contains lots of healthy veggies and vitamin C, and has a bright note from the lemon to cheer you up and remind you that being alive isn't all that bad.

    • The soup calls for pureeing half of it, which gives the liquid a pleasant body. You can skip this step altogether if you prefer it chunky, or puree the whole thing, if you want it smooth. It's flexible that way.
    • This could easily become vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock.
    • The lemon juice really makes this soup. Don't leave it out.

    Broccoli, Lemon and Parmesan Soup

    Serves 4-6 (Source: Food 52 )
    • 2 pounds broccoli, trimmed and cut into florets
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
    • 4 cups chicken stock
    • 3/4 cup parmesan
    • juice of one lemon
    • salt and pepper

    1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the broccoli and boil for 5 minutes. Drain the broccoli well and set aside.
    Yes, it's blurry. I thought I had it and didn't take a back up shot. Mea culpa.
    2. Put the pot back on the stove. Add the olive oil and garlic to the pot over medium heat. After a minute or two, when the garlic starts to soften and turn brown, add the broccoli.

    3. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to the lowest setting and cook for about an hour. Stir every once in a while to keep it from sticking and to ensure even cooking. The broccoli is done if it is soft enough to yield when you press it with the back of a spoon.

    4. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil over medium high heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Puree half the soup in a blender/food processor/ a bowl with a stick blender (depending on equipment).

     5. Stir the puree back into the soup. Stir in the parmesan.  Add salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste. (I don't specify the amount of salt because parmesan and stock are both salty ingredients, but if you really want to know I used about a teaspoon.)

    Friday, February 8, 2013

    Happy Year of the Snake!

    I spent a large part of my childhood in Asia. While it was a long time ago, I still hold on to a few habits I picked up then. I use chopsticks to cook with, I don't wear shoes in the house, and I remember the lunar new year.
    2013 is the Year of the Snake
    Snakes are supposed to have business acumen and wisdom. So this may be a good year for investments.
    Houston has a few options if you want to celebrate:

    I'll be grabbing my camera and going to at least one of these. I love a good lion dance. I also purchased a pair of snake earrings.  They're pretty (on sale!) and they might even bring me luck.

    Sidewinder studs - Stella and Dot

    Friday Fun Video
    Speaking of lion dances...

    Wednesday, February 6, 2013

    Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

    It's cold and grey and rainy out. Time for some comfort food. This is delicious and warming and makes the house smell great. It re-heats beautifully and doesn't have a ton of ingredients to shop for, always a plus. 

    I don't know how the lemon got in the shot. There is no lemon in this dish.
    • You can find the original recipe here
    • I lightened it a bit by using yogurt instead of the cream and sour cream in the original.
    • I also used brown rice instead of white and compensated by upping the amounts of liquid.
    • I used dry vermouth instead of wine (it's what I had on hand)
    • Caramelizing the onions (instead of just softening them) adds another layer of flavor, but does take extra time. 
    • Don't use a non-stick pan to brown the ingredients. You want browned bits so they can be picked up when you deglaze the pan.

    Chicken and Mushroom Casserole

    Adapted from Simply Recipes

    Yield: Serves 6 (with leftovers)

    • 2 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces, patted dry
    • Salt and pepper
    • Olive oil
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1/2 lb cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
    • 1/4 cup dry sherry or white wine
    • 2 cups chicken stock
    • 1 cup yogurt
    • 1 cup raw, brown rice
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon each of Italian seasoning and poultry seasoning (or 2 teaspoons of one of these herb mixes, or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme, and basil)
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)


    1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium high or high heat (hot enough to brown but not burn). Sprinkle a dash of salt on the bottom of the pan. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper. Working in batches, brown the chicken pieces on two sides, about 1-2 minutes per batch. Add a little more salt to the pan (and more olive oil if needed) after every batch. This will help prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan. Remove chicken pieces and put into the casserole dish.

    2 In the same sauté pan add 1 Tbsp olive oil, lower the heat to medium, add the onions, and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 30 seconds more. Remove onions and garlic the casserole dish.
    3 Raise heat to medium high, add the sliced mushrooms. Dry sauté them (no need to add butter or oil), allowing the mushrooms to brown lightly, and release some of their moisture. Add the mushrooms to the casserole dish. Add the rice. Add the seasonings (or fresh herbs) and paprika. Stir so that all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

    All the browned ingredients together
    4 Add 1/4 cup dry sherry or dry white wine to the pan to deglaze the pan, scraping off the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let the sherry reduce to about 1 Tbsp, then add the chicken stock, and remove from heat. Stir in the salt and yogurt. Then pour the stock, sherry, yogurt mixture over the rice.
    Before putting it in the oven.
    5 Cover the casserole dish tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in a 375°F oven for 45 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley before serving.

    Fresh out of the oven.  It's not all that pretty, but it tastes great!

    Monday, February 4, 2013

    HMNS: Fabergé and Dinosaurs

    The Houston Museum of Natural Science opened a Fabergé exhibit this weekend, and y'all know I am all about the bling.

    I don't wear diamond pins, but then again, I don't have any (I'm open to offers). And the necklace (right) has the most beautiful moonstones I've ever seen. Jewelry exhibits should have replicas you can try on.

    The enamelling on the egg is amazing. I don't know if you can see it, but all the edges are done with a millegrain technique. Very impressive. 

    Isn't the bird delightful? The choice of stone with the natural blush falling in exactly the right places on the head and wings. I love how the bird's claws aren't exactly even on the ring, but slightly lopsided, just like a live bird.   
    After oohing and ahhing over all the pretty things, I went to see the museum's new wing: The Morian Hall of Palentology.

    Wow! Just wow! It's an amazing display. It's arranged so that the visitor goes through time, from the earliest, simple, uni-cellular organisms all the way to mastadons and modern humans. There is even a side section, devoted to fossilized trees called "Jurrasic Bark". (really) Who says museum curators don't have a sense of humor?
    Stromatolite colony

    This one is called "Happy Puppy" and is a coal age frog-oid. One of the highlights of the exhibit is how they tried to make the exhibits as dynamic as possible. The skeletons appear to swim, run and attack each other. Like I said earlier: Wow!

    Before this exhibit, I didn't know that trilobites rolled up when attacked, like armadillos or doodlebugs.

    I forget what these are, but they make great patterns on the rock.

    Tails of a couple of dinosaurs.  Me trying to be artistic.

    Don't forget to look up!  Some amazing things are suspended from the ceiling. This turtle is the size of my car.

    Fossilized wood. To me the pattern looks like a reclining woman, with her arms stretched out. What do you see?

    Museums have the best gift shops. 

    Friday, February 1, 2013

    Goal Check

    It's February 1st. We are now one month into 2013. Time to look at my To Do List for 2013 and see if I've made any progress on my goals. I could go over all 14 resolutions, but I know y'all are only interested in one of them:

    "Lose 100 lbs"

    And if you've been reading this blog, you know my last posted recipe contained cheese, white flour and half a pound of butter. So have I made any progress? Have the scales gone down, or up? Drum roll please.

    As of today I weigh: 268.6 lbs. A loss of 13 pounds!

    And the crowd went wild.

    And because I am that kind of a geek, I made a chart. As you can see, it's not a smooth slope, (the chocolate cookie incident is very obvious) but the overall trend is downward.

    I still have 87 pounds to go, but that's a decent start, don't you think?

    Friday Fun Video
    A classic of the early 90's.