Whine-with-me-Wednesday + salsa suggestions open call

Whhhhhednesday. Do you ever have those weeks where, before you know it, Friday is upon you though you swear it was Tuesday only yesterday? This is not one of those weeks. Today is Wednesday. Today feels like Wednesday. And every evening, daylight slips away a tad earlier, little shrinking sands boogying their way ever faster through the hourglass, until we’ll have nothing at the end of the day but a brisk walk across a darkening parking lot, keys deftly woven between each finger a la Self Defense for Women Walking Through Parking Lots 101.

Wow, that went dark quickly.

Anyway, the great thing about being on the cusp of a seasonal depression is that the little things still hinting at the continued existence of summer can just turn a gal’s mood right around. Like the lovely little bounty at left from last week’s CSA harvest.

Check these little guys out! It’s like a homegrown Awkward Family Photo (BTW, best AFP ever). Ok, maybe I took these photos on Sunday, but my end o’ summer bummer is still waning just looking at them.

So now that we’re all smiles — and three days post-photoshoot — I’ve gotta get these fruits and veggies off my counter, onto a chip and into my belly. STAT.

Let the sending of salsa recipes begin!

Recipe: Soy glazed bacon noodles with baby broccoli & wax beans

soy glazed bacon noodlesOh boy, another bacon post! That makes four now, if you count Bacos, meh, and yesterday’s post about the glory that is Trader Joe’s Bacon Ends and Pieces (indeed, the very same Ends and Pieces that make a star appearance in this dish).

I promise — and those with whom I eat on a daily basis can attest — I’m not always this lazer-focused on the pig. In fact, meatless meals end up on our dinner coffee table most nights of the week. But when we’re craving just a little animal protein after a rigorous bike ride or an Original Butt session (yikes, the sound of that…), things always get shakin’ with bacon. A few slices go a long way, both in terms of flavor and hitting that “this is a meal, not a snack I can follow with a second compensating snack an hour later ” sensor. I don’t want to misspeak here: regularly tapping the salted swine does not for a healthy diet make. But once a week? Maybe twice during holidays (it was just Labor Day)? No big thing.

Even in this recipe, the sticky-sweet bacon is quantitatively trumped by not one but two types of fresh veggies: baby broccoli (or broccolini, broccoli rabe) and crisp-tender wax beans — the last of summer’s bounty, courtesy of our CSA of choice, City Limits Urban Farm. With the addition of quick cooking noodles, this stir-fry satisfies on the carb front, too, no rice cooker needed.

Soy Glazed Bacon Noodles with Baby Broccoli & Wax Beans
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 20 mins | Serves: 2

Note: As mentioned before, I love Trader Joe’s Bacon and Ends and Pieces. They’re half the price of the pretty slices, and the thicker, meatier odd bits are actually preferable for dishes where the bacon is chopped or diced. In lieu of wax beans, green beans or chinese long beans would be excellent here, though the latter rarely make an appearance in our house because of that squeaky teeth thing that I just can’t stand.

Ingredients:

  • 2 T dark sesame oil
  • 4 oz thick cut bacon, chopped (highly recommended: Trader Joe’s Bacon Ends & Pieces — see note)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chili flakes (or more, to taste)
  • 1/2″ fresh ginger root, peeled and finely grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 bunch (6-8 stems) baby broccoli, cut into 1.5″ pieces
  • 1 cup wax beans, cut into 1.5″ pieces
  • 2 T oyster sauce
  • 3 T water
  • 1 package (4 oz) par-cooked udon noodles, soaked in hot water to loosen and drained
  • 2 scallions, sliced diagonally

Instructions

Heat sesame oil in large skillet or wok over med-high heat. Add bacon, chili flakes and grated ginger and fry until bacon is begins crisping, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add garlic and fry another 30-60 seconds (do not let garlic toast). Add sugar and soy sauce, stir to combine, and allow sauce to thicken and caramelize, 3-5 minutes. Stir in veggies to coat in caramelized mixture; add water and oyster sauce and cover, 1-2 minutes. Add noodles and toss lightly to combine/heat through. Scatter over sliced scallions and serve.

No-post Sunday – or – TJ’s Bacon Ends & Pieces

Wow, what happened to my lazy Sunday? I was all scheduled to have a recipe posted today, but between brunch in Sac with the in-laws, the drive home, errands, spontaneous fridge-freezer rearranging (I can’t lie; I LOVE reorganizing stuff) and watching Thor on Netflix, here I am. With no post. Or more accurately, a post but no edited-for-the-blog-world pictures. So basically, no post. Whaaa.

In lieu of the intended post, please enjoy this picture of Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ends and Pieces, borrowed from The Food Yenta, which I strongly believe are one of the best bargains in the market and a sure favorite of omnivorous taste buds all around. More on my obsession later, but The Food Yenta uses these tender vittles for what sounds like sweet sin braised in beer…and served on a steamed bun with the holiest of Asian condiments, Hoisin sauce. Oooohhmami. How I am still spending time on this blog entry when bacon this tasty exists in the world is a mystery to me.

But the real topic at hand: how will these guys meet their end here at The Pig & Quill? Or, to put it another way:

Are these Ends and Pieces part of the belated recipe post aforementioned? Will you love them as much as the Yenta and I do? Or will Boris and Natasha finally catch Moose & Squirrel in unsuspecting circumstances?

Stay tuned next time to find out!

In the Pigpen No.1: Bacos, badonkadonks & bomb-diggity bread

Happy Friday, world! Lots in the hopper here at the P&Q and no real rhyme or reason (yet) as to how I will manage the queue. Fellow bloggers, please tell me: how do you do it?

Enter my attempted solution, the Pigpen: a mini-roundup of the promised miscellany that’s been bouncing around in the ol’ cabesa but hasn’t quite achieved solo-post status. We’ll see how far we get with this…

1) My random nostalgic love of: Bacos. Why is it that foodies almost always have a nostalgic obsession with packaged foodstuffs that attempt to closely approximate meat? For my husband, it’s Vienna Sausages. For my mom, it’s SPAM. And for me, it’s Bacos. Ok, that’s a lie; for me it’s Bacos AND SPAM, but SPAM is getting kinda bourgeois these days, so does it really need another plug? I can’t promise it won’t happen eventually, because I really do love SPAM, but….I mean, look at this! Already it’s hijacking poor Bacos’ blurb. So let’s get on with it. Bacos. Yes, the salad topping. As a kid, I would eat them by the spoonful or just pound them straight from the plastic container that was a pantry staple at my god-sister Whitney’s house. I was, and still am, completely Bacosmitten. Sure, they’re artificial, full of chemical flavorings and hydrogenated everything and taste nothing like the applewood smoked stuff we’ve all come to call the norm. But for you naysayers, I have three words for you: Savory. Fruity. Pebbles. Enough said.

2) Motor on the back on my Honda: PopPhysique Original Butt. Does your special someone Not Want None Unless You Got Buns, Hun? Listen up. PopPhysique — the fitness studio arm of the Bay Area-based PopSugar empire — has recently released a DVD version of one of their most popular barre workouts, and it’s bananas (in a good way). I received mine in the August edition of their monthly Must Have box (hoping to do a full rundown one of these days) and immediately convinced myself that this would be my shortcut to getting Adriana Lima’s body in time for our trip to Costa Rica this fall. Ha. Ahahaha. One workout in and I’ve reached Lima status, all right, as in Lima towel handy so I don’t slip and die in the pool of sweat collecting on my upper lip, holy GAWD. It’s that intense, and there’s not even a cardio component. It’s all about controlled poses, micro-movements and twitchy muscles, and it’s effective as hell. My arms were trembling. My legs were trembling. My butt cheeks were trembling individually. Of course, if you’re a seasoned yogi, or a barre class regular, or just bendy by nature (limber and flexible I am NOT), you’ll have a much easier time, but this workout is no joke. Except for that Lima pun up there, which was totally a joke, and totally hilarious.

3) Seriously the best thing (since…): Alpine Valley Organic Multi Grain + Omega 3. OhEmGee, people. Have you tried this bread? I’ll start by saying that it’s not my favorite bread straight out of the bag since it has a glutinous, almost undercooked texture that makes it a tad gummy — but toasted? Peter, Paul & Mary, it’s fantastic. Whatever it is that makes this bread a bit of a hot mess when it’s plain helps transform it into a chewy, toothsome treat after a two minutes in the sack with Mr. Toaster. Add in the subtle caramel flavor imparted by a touch of honey and a nutty, seeded crust and I’m in Leavened Heaven. Bonus points for being able to find a little two-pack sack of these guys at my neighborhood Costco. (Whadda ya know, Jeanette behind Fergie’s Bites and Stuft Mama, from whom I borrowed the pic at left, are also grooving on this stuff!)

So, what say we about the whole Pigpen thing, folks? And don’t spare my feelings, because I already designed the cover art for Numbers 2-10, so we’re kinda locked in regardless. But really. Eh?

Recipe: Cucumber carpaccio with red chili & fennel

For this post in particular, I’m going to have to get this disclaimer over with right away: I am not a photographer. So until I really rally my crap and get our snazzy Nikon together, these pics are going range from eh to bleh. Not a great trait for a food blog, I know. I promise attempted improvement over time.

Now, having said that, please don’t let the crummy picture here dissuade you from trying this super simple, slightly spicy summer salad. (Say that five times fast without being accused of speaking Parseltongue. I dare you.)

Cucumber Carpaccio with Red Chili & Fennel
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: <5 mins | Serves: 1-2

Note: Try this recipe with almost ANY summer veggie, or a combination of veggies: zuchs, steamed beets, fresh corn, creamy slabs of boiled or roasted Yukon Golds — whatever. Even kale gets its good on with this treatment. Oh, and bust out the butteriest, grassiest, spiciest olive oil you’ve got stashed away for this. It’ll be worth it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lemon cucumbers, thinly sliced (or other veggies — see note)
  • good olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice
  • crushed chili flakes
  • lightly crushed fennel seed
  • smoked sea salt (coarse)

Instructions

Arrange cucumbers on a serving plate. Drizzle generously with lemon and olive oil.  Sprinkle with the chili flakes and crushed fennel to taste. Just before serving, top with the smoked salt.

Obsession: Cray for J. Crew + GDL love

Holy Sale, Batman! J. Crew is having a promo where all redline items are an additional 30% off (through Friday, Sept. 7). It’s not like this is the first time J. Crew has had a sale, or even a sale of this nature — but, this is the first time I’ve actually committed to purchasing the boatload of loot I added to my online shopping bag. You see, it started with browsing new button-downs…and falling in love with a shrunken blazer in a cracked-out plaid. And then I saw that the Tippi sweater was part of the sale, too. And the wheels. Completely. Fell off.

Let me explain. The Tippi sweater is the best friend of my best friend, Giada DeLaurentiis. (Clarifications: 1. only in my literal dreams; 2. she doesn’t know; 3. please don’t tell her.) Ok, maybe Giada doesn’t befriend knitwear, but the sweater was heavily recommended as one of her favorite things several GDL email newsletters ago, and being the bosom buddies that we are, I had to have it. How else could we be Tippi Twins at the next Food & Wine fest? Duh.

Fast-forward 45 minutes, and I had checked out with NINE — aiyah! — new garments in my shopping bag:

 

(Top-Bottom, Left-Right: TippiTwinsGiadaLoveSweater; Minnie Pants; Perfect Shirt #1;
Camp Shirt; Jackie Sweater; CrackPlaidBlazer; Perfect Shirt #2; Perfect Shirt #3; Cafe Capri)

So, needless to say, the Back-to-School shopping trip that I’ve treated myself to every year since college graduation is not happening this year in lieu of my Cray Crew spending spree. (Which — did I mention? — was 100% husband-endorsed. Hey-o!) But that’s ok. I’m feeling really good about how all of these pieces will mix into my teensy tiny wardrobe, and the bargain shopper in me is totally titillated.

Hehe.

Going no-sugar-added: take that, eyeabetes!

A few weeks ago, my middle school friend Miriam, aka Amazon Genki Girl, and I were at home for her dad’s (crazy adorable, super fun) third wedding when she broke the following news to me:

Mir: “Em, did I tell you? I have eyeabetes.”
Me: “Oh no! DubTeeEff is eyeabetes?”
Mir: “It’s when the optometrist says I have the eyes of a diabetic because I’ve been literally eating, like, a whole bag of Dove chocolates in one sitting. Every day.”

Oh. Yeah, apparently that’ll do it. So now my eyeabetic friend Miriam is on a slightly modifEYED (oh, snap!) diet that involves avoiding products with added sugar five days a week. With some exceptions. Monday through Friday, baked goods, candy, chocolate, and pretty much all processed convenience foods are OUT. Sauces, dressings and condiments are IN, in moderation (ketchup and hoisin are biggies in Mir’s household, as they are in most Chinese-American kitchens). And of course, foods containing natural sugars, like fruits and veggies, are allowed in abundance. On the weekend, it’s back to normal. Easy, right?

Actually, as far as modified diets go, it IS pretty easy.

Inspired by Mir’s commitment to eyesight, I hopped on the bandwagon four weeks ago, and it’s not a bad way to go. Aside from sounding like that chick in the office who’s on a stupid, self-prescribed no-added-sugar diet (oh wait, that’s me), this No Added Sugar thing has more pros than cons. During the week, it prevents me from chowing down on the cereal bars, jelly beans and ice cream that our office stocks in the kitchen — and on the weekend, I can wisely treat myself to deereeshus sugary splurges like Fat Apples cheese puffs (similar recipe), Love at First Bite cupcakes and The Mix’s fancy Strauss Family Creamery frozen yogurt.

Now, there’s no telling just how long I’ll be able to stay off the (sugar)cane. But as we roll toward the sugariest seasons of all, it can’t hurt to purge a little of the excess glucose from my system. I’m feeling good. I’m even — dare I say — gradually losing a smidge o’ pudge. Best of all, my empty-calorie snacks have been almost completely replaced by tastier, more nutrient-dense whole foods like fresh fruit, almonds and years-old Gouda.

As Ina Garten would say, how bad can that be?

Recipe: Braised meatballs with bacon & chard

Braised Meatballs
I. Freaking. Love. Meatballs. In fact, I’m pretty certain 50 Cent knew nothing of fat kids’ loves when he was rapping about cake. Any fat kid that knows what’s up would take a saucy little meatball over a crumbly slice of Duncan Hines hands down. And that’s the truth.

In this version, juicy spheres of herb-studded, organic, grass fed beef are roasted to develop a crisp crust and then bathed in a super fast tomato sauce chock full of bacon and thick ribbons of chard.  Serve over whole wheat or brown rice pasta for a meal that’s as balanced as it is satisfying.

Braised Meatballs with Bacon & Chard
By Emily Stoffel
Cooking time: 50 mins | Serves 4

For the Meatballs

  • 1/2 c panko
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 T chopped fresh herbs (basil/sage/oregano/rosemary/thyme all work well)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • dash nutmeg
  • s&p to taste
  • 1.3 -1.5 lbs ground beef

 For the Sauce

  • 4-6 slices thick cut bacon, roughly diced
  • 1 bunch swiss chard, tough stems removed/leaves chopped
  • 24 oz prepared pasta sauce (scratch or purchased)
  • freshly grated parmesan

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450F. Combine all meatball ingredients except beef in large bowl until thoroughly mixed. Add beef and mix lightly with your hands (or a fork) until incorporated. Roll into golf ball-sized spheres and bake on a rimmed cookie sheet until browned, about 25-30 mins.

Meanwhile, brown bacon over med-high heat in a large pot or dutch oven until crisp. Add chopped chard and saute until greens begin to wilt. Stir in prepared pasta sauce and reduce heat to low while meatballs roast.

Once roasted, remove meatballs to bacon-chard sauce and simmer for 10 mins. Serve over hot, buttered pasta topped with parm.

Gettin’ Judgy wit it

I’ve been saying I should start a blog for God knows how long, but it took purchasing a domain name to finally light a fire under my butt strong enough to motivate movement. As you may learn, I consider every purchase an investment and am highly disappointed when dollars are wasted on fruitless efforts. So how better to kickstart a blog than to pay for one? Sure, the logic is a bit backwards, but we’re here, aren’t we?

And now that we’re here, the question begs: where  do I start? I crack myself up on pretty much a daily basis, yet there’s a whole new sense of pressure, of fear, when the inner monologue becomes external and the critics start circling. But let’s be real. If criticism is just a fancy word for gettin’ judgy — and gettin’ judgy is one of my guiltiest pleasures — then I’ll happily take one for the GJ team. If nothing else, blogging will provide an alternative to the typical weeknight routine of watching Top Gear reruns until midnight and then startling awake (wait, when did I fall asleep?) to the realization that my teeth aren’t brushed and the laundry is still in the dryer. If you have a quicker shortcut to Cranky, let me know. I think my husband would agree that the above process is dialed.

So with this experiment officially in progress, let’s start with setting some expectations, such as…

  1. While I can follow a recipe, I don’t generally write them, so anything that resembles an original recipe is gonna be rough in measurements and practice. If you love to eat as much as I do, it might just be worth slogging through my babble to give it a try. I don’t promise it’ll be great, but I’ll love you for it.
  2. The Chinese half of me is in the driver’s seat when it comes to boozing. I don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype of Asian drivers, but it’s not a smooth ride. I do love a glass of wine with dinner, but when a swig of champs is accompanied by a red face and a racing heart, it’s just not sexy. So a cocktail blog this won’t be. Disappointed? Hit up Emily over at Copper & Thread (ahem, once it’s up and running). In addition to being one of the most genuine beings you’ll ever encounter on the interweb, she makes a killer Moscow Mule.
  3. Please forgive small typos. I’m a hunter and pecker and probably always will be. Toopid puters.
  4. Let’s be frank. I’m blogging for me, but if anyone is reading this, I’m blogging for you, too! So leave me comments. Like, a big bag of ’em.
  5. If I’m going to make a list, it’s going to include five items. No, not really, but it didn’t seem right to end this list with a paltry four things, so…

Here goes nothing!