Friday, January 28, 2011

Chili, Really?

It's good to be open to new experiences, and e-mealz has definitely been a new experience. We've both had to adjust a little. I've been adjusting to the fact that I can't "opt-out" of meals anymore just because I'm lazy, and Jeremy's been adjusting to things like zucchini in chili. Although I have to admit, even I was a little weirded out by the zucchini in chili.

White bean chili was our first "e-meal." Because of the addition of things like chicken broth and zucchini, and the subtraction of things like tomatoes, I would classify this "chili" as more of a taco soup kind of thing. It wasn't thick, like I've come to expect from chili, and it was really missing a chili type of flavor. But it was good, despite the fact that it was definitely misnamed.

Tuesday night's meal Baked Ziti was even better and definitely has been my favorite meal so far. But what's better than the meals of e-mealz is the simplicity of coming home and already knowing what you're going to cook for supper. I would easily pay ten times the amount I'm paying now for that simple peace of mind. I don't have to think all day, "what're we going to have for dinner?" or "do I have everything I'm going to need for dinner?" I know before I even get home what we're going to have, and I know that we have every ingredient we need for it...well, almost every ingredient.

Friday's meal, Ginger Chicken with sauteed Bak Choy (which makes me giggle every time I say it...bak bak BAK choy!), called for balsamic vinegar, an item I missed on my shopping list because it was listed under the "staples" at the bottom of the list. I guess most households keep things like balsamic vinegar around. Not us, we're not civilized like that. So, needless to say, the uncivilized Rosses had no balsamic vinegar to be found, and because I had bought two weeks worth of my e-mealz groceries, I was not stepping foot inside a grocery way, no how.

The time had come to improvise, and as previously stated, this is one of my favorite things to do when cooking. My improvisation this time included putting soy sauce, white vinegar, lime juice, and brown sugar in the sauce for my "ginger chicken," and surprisingly, it turned out pretty fine. The Bak Choy on the other obviously meant for the civilized. I probably cut it all wrong or spent too much time making fun of its name or something silly like that, but the Bak Choy was not my friend. It was tough and chewy and nearly choked me a couple of times when I was trying to eat it. I'm sure this all boils down to something I did wrong, but I'm really laying blame on the vegetable and am going to seek retribution by never buying or eating Bak Choy again...take that you crisp and leafy lettuce you!

Bak Choy and "CHILI" (complete with air quotes and much sarcasm when you say it aloud) aside, the first week of e-mealz has been a relatively successful one. We'll see how long that lasts.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Key Lime (Minus the Key) Pie

It's hard to believe that only a few months ago I was wishing for Fall/Winter weather. It's true that you always want what you don't have. That's why it's also a cliche. Gotta love a cliche. Yep, here I sit wishing for Spring/Summer weather and wallowing in my cliche.

Last night, Jeremy and I attempted to bring a little Spring/Summer to the Ross household. Jeremy had been dying to use the new grill my parents got us for Christmas, and despite the fact that it was 30 degrees outside, he decided that last night - January 21, 2011 - would be the night he officially christened it. He'd already cured and seasoned the grill last week. That part had felt like an ancient manly ritual: "I am man! I make fire!" He carefully rubbed the entire inside of the grill with vegetable oil, then heated it to 250 degrees for 2 hours and 400 degrees for an additional hour. Why that combination I have no idea, but this process will supposedly keep the metal from rusting as quickly. I'm skeptical.

In addition to this curing process, Jeremy had to season the cast iron grates. Of course. For this, he used nearly an entire can of my Crisco (Yes, I'm very possessive of my cans of shortening; Mama's little baby loves shortenin' shortenin'!). The grill got heated again. This time to 350 degrees. The entire ritual used a huge bag of charcoal, which makes very little sense to me. Why waste charcoal when you're not even going to cook something? But whatever. I'm female and lack the natural compulsion to make fire and burn things.

Regardless, I was glad that Jeremy had already completed this complicated curing and seasoning business, because this meant he could use the grill to make some yummy steaks last night. And boy, were they yummy!

Steaks, baked potatoes, salad, and wine = the perfect meal

Friday, January 21, 2011


Today, I embark on a new adventure as a wife and a cook. I signed up for E-Mealz last night, and I'm super excited at the prospect of changing mine and Jeremy's eating habits, as well as trimming up our grocery budget. E-Mealz is a meal-planning program that offers menus and meal plans for families and couples. For a small, monthly fee, E-Mealz allows subscribers access to specially designed menus that offer a different recipe for every week night. Some of the menus even coincide with a specific grocery store, allowing users to take advantage of special deals at that specific store. I chose the Low Fat for Two plan, and because my regular grocery store, Ingles, wasn't an option, I opted for an "Any Store" plan.


Jeremy and I have been needing to eat healthier and, getting home at seven thirty every night, is just not conducive to dieting. I had heard about E-Mealz from a friend and thought that it might be a good way to "semi-diet" and also help plan meals (since my schedule doesn't really allow for that). I'm hoping it will also help us to save money and shop smarter.

I had some reservations about subscribing to E-Mealz. My number one hesitation revolved around my love for cooking. I worried (and still worry) that E-Mealz might stifle my creative genius in the kitchen...ha! No really, I don't particularly like the idea of having to prepare a certain meal every night. I'm an "on-the-fly" type of cook. I make my decisions based on my mood. If the fancy strikes me, I may prepare crab cakes one night and grilled cheeses the next. I don't really have a particular repertoire, and I don't follow plans very well. I gave up New Year's resolutions long ago. I found that I was too much of a rebel to even set a resolution for myself...resolution? I'll show you my resolution! If there are lines, I'm going to color outside them. That's just who I am.

Thus, the lines of E-Mealz made me a little nervous. What if I didn't like a certain recipe? What if I wanted to change it up a little? I'm constantly changing and tweaking recipes, and I don't want that freedom to go away.

After viewing my first week's menu, this fear quickly subsided. My first recipe is a simple White Bean Chili, which not only sounds yummy but also sounds flexible. And surprisingly, the rest of the recipes for Week 1 sound similar. They're not too fancy or too complicated, and they sound like they'll actually taste good. And what's best? Each week's menu comes with a sorted shopping list with every item you need for the week's meals. This is probably the biggest perk of E-Mealz (at least from what I've discovered so far). It's a complete dream, in fact. Every item on the list is categorized by department/type and will make grocery shopping so much less of a headache. There are few things on this earth I hate as much as grocery much so that I avoid going until absolutely necessary. When we're having ketchup sandwiches and drinking tap water, I finally decide it might be time to go shopping, but typically not until that very crucial moment. So, this organized shopping list is like a magic wand for me. I feel like Harry-freakin'-Potter! Already it's even made me look forward to grocery shopping.

For the most part, the jury's still out on E-Mealz. I'm not really going to know how much I like it until I've had a few weeks to put it into practice. Hopefully, my rebellious, outside-the-lines ways won't sabotage it before I even start...I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why I Could Never be a Housewife

Why could I never be a housewife? That's easy: 1) I'm lazy. 2) I get bored EASILY. Having spent the last three days iced/snowed in, I have been SO completely and utterly lazy and bored it's not even funny. Don't get me wrong, I've done housework and cooked meals. I've been on top of all that like never before, and I've enjoyed being on top of it. But I don't want to do that every day for the rest of my life. And when left with no other options but doing housework and sitting around, I do the housework, and then I sit around. Not being able to go outside (or anywhere for that matter) has left me feeling stir crazy and bored out of my mind. Perhaps if I could get out and actually accomplish things, I wouldn't feel this way, but I'm pretty sure I'm just not cut out to be a housewife.

Now, I could definitely be a stay at home writer. The problem this week has been a complete lack of inspiration. Yeah, it turns out that LIVING and EXPERIENCES provide the fodder and motivation for my tales, and without being able to get out and live and experience anything (aside from the snow which got boring after the second trip out in it), I haven't been able to write. Call it writer's block or what you will, but I am most definitely at a complete loss for words and that makes me mad. Really, really mad.

The source of my frustration.

So, as bad as I can hate going to work day after day, I'm realizing that work actually inspires me in a lot of ways. If nothing else, it provides me with the motivation to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional writer. Every day that I spend working towards that goal (even if it is working in a field that I don't always want to be in) brings me one step closer to reaching it. So, I can honestly say I'm looking forward to going back to work tomorrow and, hopefully, putting a stop to this writer's block.

In the meantime, as a housewife this week, I cooked at least one good (and simple) meal.

Spicy Chicken Tenders (modified by Jeremy Ross)

1 lb chicken strips/tenderloin
2 tablespoons peanut oil (enough to cover the bottom of a large fryer)
1/2 cup milk
a few dashes of hot sauce
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cajun seasoning
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
salt to taste

Soak chicken strips in milk and hot sauce in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. Combine flour and spices on plate or in bowl. Dredge each soaked chicken strip in flour mixture, coat well. Heat peanut oil (which doesn't burn as easily as vegetable oil) over medium-high heat. Place dredged chicken strips in oil. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes on each side or until crispy and brown. Serve with wing sauce.

Oven-Roasted Potatoes

5 to 6 medium potatoes (I used russet, I've seen a lot of recipes that use red potatoes)
1/2 to 1 envelope onion soup mix (you can over-do this depending on the size of our potatoes)
1/3 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cut potatoes into small, uniformed cubes. Combine potatoes in bowl with onion soup mix and olive oil. Mix to coat well. Place in greased medium-sized casserole. Bake 40 minutes.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Milk and Bread

Well, according to Chief Meteorologist Glenn Burns aka minor god in the Southern weather world, snow is headed to Georgia. Mr. Burns and the other lower ranked meteorologists (with a little m) are throwing around words like "significant" and phrases like "WINTER STORM," and we are all supposed to panic and shudder with fear in response. You gotta love a Southern "snow event" (another phrase coined by the meteorology gods). It sends everything into upheaval and causes the most interesting reactions imaginable.

But to give us Southerners the benefit of the doubt here, we're honestly just not used to this kind of weather, so how can anyone expect us to have a normal reaction to it? Oh, yeah, Yankees and Mid-westerners can sit up on their high horses and laugh at how we in Dixieland flinch at the tiniest flake, but let's see y'all deal with smoldering temperatures and a little something called HUMIDITY. Try having it so hot that you lose your breath when you walk outside, or that your makeup melts off your face as you sweat from pores you didn't even know you had. That's right, who's laughing now, America?

The benefit of the doubt aside, however, I do have one very important thing to ask my fellow Southerners. A question that has been nagging at my mind since I was a little girl, and now, as a full grown (while not necessarily grown up) woman, I'm more curious than ever. Why, sweet Southland, why milk and bread?

Anytime any kind of winter weather "event" hits the South all I hear is milk and bread. Milk and bread! Milk and bread! We've got to stock up on milk and bread. No doubt, even as I type, the milk and bread is flying off store shelves as if it were cast in gold. Like these two food stores will hold off an encroaching snow storm, a zombie apocalypse, and my neighbor's viscous German Shepherd without even breaking a sweat. Like these two mystical, magical items hold all the answers to our weather woes. As soon as snow is forecasted, we migrate en masse to the grocery stores and relieve the shelves of their milky and bready burden, settling on them like locusts on a farmer's crops. Oh, the snowmanity!

In all seriousness, why are milk and bread the two items we immediately think to stock up on when snow is looming? What do we think we're going to do with the milk and bread? I guess if all else fails we will have bread to eat and milk to drink, but wouldn't that work just as well with, let's say, chips and water? The mystery is too much for me to solve here, that's for sure.

Less than half of a half-gallon of milk and moldy bread: the Ross version of being prepared.

When I was stocking up on my own items for Snow-pocalypse 2011, I got dry goods, like cereal, chips and salsa, and crackers. If we do indeed get snowed-in, as predicted, and the power goes off, I'm pretty sure milk will spoil, as would anything we'd put on bread to make a sandwich; therefore, my logical conclusion was to not worry with milk and bread and to instead stock up on junk food and soft drinks...the food which is sure to save us all in the end.
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