Sunday, January 25, 2015

A month of slow-cooking

So, one of my new year's resolutions was to cook something "hard" each month. This month I made a quiche for Ryan (one of his top ten favorite foods) but I've also been using my Christmas Crock-Pot quite a bit. Usually, I prep the food before I leave his house for the night, and Ryan just has to plug it in before he leaves for work in the morning. Then, when we both get back to his house, it smells great and is hot for us to eat!

Here are the things that I've done so far, and some of the things I've learned about slow-cooking:

1. Sesame Chicken. This one was good, except that slow cooking relies on a long, simmering process. If you don't have enough sauce to simmer, then the bottom layer of chicken will burn and stick. The top layer was really good though. Also, I learned not to add broccoli to a crock pot all day - it got WAY soft. But the sesame sauce was really good, and I'd definitely make this again, just save the veggies for after I get home, and put more water in the bottom of the pan to keep it from burning.

2. Chicken Tortilla Soup. This one was absolutely amazing. No complaints. I plan to make it for the chili cook-off at work (even though it's not really chili). It's a Six Sister's recipe and can be found here:

3. Applesauce glazed Pork Tenderloin. This one is when I learned that just because a recipe in a magazine says slow-cook, it does not always mean crock-pot! So one night Ryan and I waited 2 hours and ate dinner really late, but it was delicious and I would definitely eat it again. I think it can be done in the crockpot, but it would have involved figuring out how to alter the recipe so that the glaze would be more simmer-y to prevent the meat from burning (see above).

4. Pea Soup. Ryan's second favorite meal (after the chicken tortilla). It's literally peas, onions, and broth, but it makes the house smell amazing and is really cheap and filling. I'd call it a hit.

5. Carrot Soup. After the successful pea soup, we thought a carrot recipe couldn't be that bad. We were wrong. It was primarily ginger-based, which Ryan didn't like, and since he doesn't have a blender, I used a food processor. They are not the same - food processor leads to a weird grainy texture where blender (I assume) should have been creamy and smooth.

6. Imtation Crab Chowder. This one turned into more of a gumbo, since I left the cream out of the soup and kicked up the cajun flavor with Tony Chachere's seasoning. Very hot, which made it a hit for Ryan. The recipe called for real crab but the imitation stuff held up better in the slow cooker.

7. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce. I've made this one for a while now. The slow cooker let me leave out the water and just stew the tomatoes until they were mushy. I don't use tomato paste, just fresh tomatoes, so the texture sometimes comes out too thin, but with the slow cooker, it was a lot better.

Stay tuned to see how I try to get fancy on Valentine's day, my next month of "hard' cooking.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years Resolutions 2015

First, a recap from last year
My 2014 resolutions:
- read and watch A Game of Thrones
I read A Game of Thrones and watched the first episodes of the show. I have the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire book series to read, and the rest of the TV show with Ryan.
Technically it still counts as a pass, 1 point :)

- floss, wear retainer and mouthwash
I wore my retainer and used mouthwash but I didn't get around to flossing my teeth. 2/3 of a point?

- twice weekly regular exercise
I ran the Color Run! Thanks to Ryan I've been able to run regularly, and I lost 22 lbs. 1 point, plus much better self-esteem (I hate being/feeling fat)

- consistent Bible reading plan
Nope. I started this one and didn't finish it. I changed phones, and the plan was on my iPod touch, so I lost it. 0 points.

- 10K in savings after fully paying off school
I had this one, and then I spent it on a car, but I still have a huge chunk in savings so I am happy with the result. We'll call it 1/2 a point, with a bonus for getting my licence and having a car, so 1 point

Total: 3.67 out of 5 (73%, far better than last year but still a low C)

My 2015 resolutions:
I am going to be vague with some of these, leaving out numbers, because I still don't want to put my weight on the internet!

- run a 10K and 2 other "races"
Not sure which 10K yet, the other two are the color run again and the dazzle dash (hence the quotation marks - they're not competitive races, but are lots of fun!)

- reach my goal weight
If I get to this one, the sub goal is to tell you all what it is at the end of the year, breaking the social stigma about girls and weight. Plus, I'll be in a more healthy weight range by that time, if it happens.

- Buy stock/invest in a CD to better understand money
I'm starting a job since I just graduated with a master's degree and want to understand money better. I don't have debts to pay off, so I thought I'd try this!

- Read the New Testament & journal my QTs
More attainable than the whole Bible in a year, and that leaves the old testament for 2016! :)

- Try a new 'hard' recipe every month
While in college I had fun learning to cook things (including pies, a previous year's resolution) and I want to keep that up post-grad! "Hard" means something that actually improves my cooking, not, "Oh, I've never made pasta salad with eggs before". Hard means risotto, lamb, etc. - something to make me a better cook at the end.

- Memorize a new scripture passage monthly
I fell out of this habit after high school and would like to return to it. We used to do a passage every Tim Team meeting in high school, so I thought I'd stick to that schedule.

- Finally visit a gynecologist
This one is silly, but I've been afraid of it for a while. In 2014, I got over my fear of wearing tampons, so this is the next thing to conquer! (Sorry boys if that got too gross for you. If it did, maybe you should resolve to be less squeamish about women's hygiene!)

- Learn how to do makeup
I don't really know when this one will qualify as "done", but I am subscribed to ipsy and birchbox!

- Attend Grace Hopper (professional conference) and Brick Fair (Lego fan conference)
Cons are everyone's new favorite things. I would like this to become a new year's resolution every year - one professional and one fun conference. Already planning to hit up the JASNA AGM in 2016 for Emma's 200 year anniversary! Eventually, I hope to be able to go to ComicCon and some of the other "big" ones. Maybe the Stratford Shakespeare Festival? =)

- Read the next 2 Song of Ice and Fire books with Ryan
It takes GRRM so long to writer them, I can take my time reading them!

Ten resolutions this year. :)
Let's see if I can do it, and see what surprises the year holds for me!