Roast Chicken, Passionate Potatoes, and Goat Log

My cousin Hannah turned 18 last week. I took her out for coffee yesterday, and gave her a choice in birthday presents. She could have a quilt for her bed in college OR makeup from whatever counter she wanted at Macy’s. (I know. I am an amazing cousin.) After some deliberation, we went to Tea Time Quilting on Tulane here in the Heights. (Tulane! Roll Wave! PS- Did you know that Hanky Panky came out with a collegiate collection, and that Tulane is part of it!?! What good fortune!)

Jana, the owner, also runs Jana’s flowers on the same corner. Let me tell ya’ll: she is a trip, in a good way. She talks fast, walks fast, and knows her stuff. I think she is awesome, and I try to buy whatever I can from her. They also have a ton of fat quarters there, literally boxes upon boxes, all sorted by color, so if you’re into precuts you have to check this spot out. We walked around for a few minutes and ended up leaving with a pattern which later went out the window when we found fabric Hannah loves online that requires something different.

Free Spirit Fabrics have a TON of great lines. I have Deer Valley (how coincidental) as the shade in my bathroom, and have bought several yards of this and that for different projects. All of it is awesome. Hannah is deliberating over the Cottage Garden line. I happen to think it is amazing. They kind of have a Matisse-Floral-On Acid thing going. Love it.

On the way home from Tea Time, she decided to stay for dinner, and boy was that an excellent decision. First of all, Hannah and I found yet another common bond while hanging at my house: we are both serious Martha Stewart fans. Second of all, we ate roast chicken. I love roast chicken.

Now, if you did not know that Martha Stewart had little blurbs on Comcast OnDemand, I’m sorry you’ve missed out so far. They are wonderful. This month is (of course) all about Halloween. She makes glitter pumpkins, a shrunken head tree, and a scary candy bowl that Nikki told me I was not allowed to make because it would bring me too much pleasure in scaring innocent children. We watched almost all of them while I cooked yesterday.

On to roast chicken. I have something to say to anyone out there who cooks: don’t be afraid of the whole bird. You can’t be. They are so much better than the standard boneless skinless chicken breast. I bought a large organic, free-range, never-been-frozen chicken at Kroger yesterday for about $11. It fed Justin (who counts as two people), myself, and Hannah with enough left over for two lunches or a batch of chicken tetrazzini. Seriously, that was a good deal. It would have been even cheaper if I had gone with a bird with fewer bells and whistles, but that was not available fully thawed. I just rubbed it down with a compound butter and stuffed it with lemon halves and herbs. Easy.

Last week Mom had Bunco at her house. She had to make an appointment day-of, so we worked it out that I could help her cook. She made individual pot pies. While we were at Central Market, she found purple fingerling potatoes. I didn’t know purple potatoes existed, much less that they are incredibly good for you and packed with nutrients and antioxidants. Last night, when Hannah and I spotted baby Purple Passion Potatoes at Kroger, we bought them. 🙂

They were a little sweet, and about the same texture as a sweet potato. And they were bright purple inside. I boiled them in salted water and hit them with some finely chopped parsley, butter, lots of black pepper, some crushed red pepper because we like it hot, and a little cream cheese. I’ve done it with sour cream before (if you do this make sure to get a brand name container because the nicer stuff tends to hold up to heat better), and it would be good with goat cheese. I mean goat log.

The goat log part comes from the salad. Justin LOVES goat cheese. I credit myself with that introduction. I try to get him surprises at the grocery store, like some crazy mango-pineapple-guava juice or the supremely spicy Sabra hummus… or goat cheese. Hannah and I, being juvenile, thought that serving “goat log” would be hilaaarious. I mean, really. Goat log. Makes me giggle now.

I made a spinach salad with cherry tomatoes, the goat log, grated carrots, and a homemade lemony vinaigrette. I think it would have been nice with balsamic, too. Grated carrots, along with caramelized onions, are underrated in my opinion. Carrots are good for your eyes, and are loaded with nutrients. They are also cheap.

In Germany, they serve all kinds of little salads with meals. Karrotensalat, literally translated “carrot salad,” is my favorite. Some varieties utilize vinegar, others use a mayonnaise or sour cream base. I couldn’t get enough of it over there. They also had wonderful potato salads, cucumber salads, tomato salads, and more. If you are heading to Deutschland anytime soon, make sure to order them at lunchtime.

All in all, last night was capital. I love nothing better than being with the people I love. Feeding them and giving them presents are a close-second tie. I am so happy I get to make Hannah a quilt that she can take north with her. I know it’s sentimental, but I am honored that I get to be a part of her growing and finding herself as an artist, even if it’s just that I get to help keep her warm at night. I am so happy I have the luxury of making roast chicken on a weeknight. Seriously, Justin’s whole face lit up when I said, “roast chicken.” He smiled even wider at the prospect of S-S-S-Hummus. Hannah ate her weight in passionate potatoes and walked out with the recipe on a 3×5 card. I’m going to have to get mom to make her a cookbook with all the food we ate growing up in it like she did for Elise and I. What a wonderful evening spent in the company of Hannah, Justin, and Martha Stewart. I’m a lucky lady.

 

Side Note: All recipes are under Roast Chicken Dinner on the Recipes page. 🙂 Happy cooking.

Gabby’s BBQ, My Franken-Mug, and Miss Caroline :-)

1. I was supposed to defrost some steaks (cut from one of the beef tenders we got on sale at Rice E.) and fry them up for dinner. Instead, the steaks, green beans, and as-yet-undetermined starch will be waiting for us tomorrow night… Justin took me to the Drive Thru at Gabby’s BBQ. (I am such a cheap date!) I got a meal in a peel. Yum. I highly recommend one. Get extra sauce. You’ll be happy you did.

2. I am a huge fan of good, clean fun. It’s underrated. My new fave spot for GCF is The Mad Potter, a paint your own pottery chain here in H-town. I went there last week with Hannah, my cousin, and painted a Franken-mug. Hannah painted a mustache mug… A ginger mustache mug. I’ll let you in on a little secret: The Mad Potter has excellent people watching on Friday nights. We had so much fun! I can’t wait to pick our pieces up.

If you want to go and try it out, I’d like to send you in with one piece of advice: Don’t get frustrated. I am artistic. I actually almost majored in ceramics. I love making things. And painting the stupid pasta bowl I started out with nearly gave me an apoplexy from frustration. Hannah, an extremely talented painter and drawer, had the same problem. I sympathized with her over our mugs, telling her that the pasta bowl I painted looked like something an 11-year-old had made. Basically we determined that it’s not the same thing. It won’t look perfect, like their little examples they have everywhere. It’s NOT easy. So. When you go in, expect to leave with something it looks like your kid painted, and you’ll be much happier than if you go in feeling like Rembrandt. 

3. Caroline is Justin’s 5-year-old daughter. I adore her. She is a fabulous human being. She calls mermaids “Mee-murs,” and her favorite chips are Doritos. I love her. Today I got to video chat with her. Thanks to modern technology, it took us five minutes to talk Justin’s mom through Google chat’s video app setup, and we actually got to see the little rascal. What a cutie pie! She was wearing one of the shirts I had gotten her for school. I got her a bunch of Gap, Children’s Collection, and Hanna Andersson… Mom and I had to pry ourselves out of the Hanna Andersson catalog today. We love their clothes. They are this thick, indestructible cotton. They are bright. They are awesome. AND… They have a store in the Galleria.

Caroline is going to be a ballerina for Halloween. I am going to get her a ballerina bow from Bubbly Bows. These bows are on another level, people. They are little alligator clips with works of grosgrain art on them. They also had a witch’s hat and a panda bear. Caroline showed us her drawing of the Liberty Bell, complete with large black crack. She said school was going really well. 🙂 She also showed us the book she is reading. Something about the Berstein Bears and “Spooky.”

I can’t wait for her to come and visit again. I am really hoping we get to take her to the Renaissance Festival with us. I think she would love it. Elise and I always did, and every kid I have ever seen there looks to be having a marvelous time. Once we get our plans finalized with that, I’m going to try to make her a costume! That way she can get her face painted, and have the Twisted Sisters braid her hair, and get sprinkled in fairy dust, and eat a turkey leg in high style. I’ll have to consult The Master (Mom) on her costume. I had my birthday party at RenFest one year, and she made all my friends these really pretty purple dresses… Mom also made all of my friends poodle skirts for my sock hop birthday party when I turned 5. Then the Elvis impersonator made me cry (at least I think that’s what happened… it was a long time ago) and we ate cake and everyone went home. What an awesome party! I wonder if she would throw a party like that for me this year…

My Mom pretty much always has the best ideas EVER. When Caroline visited her house in Florida this summer, Mom had all these awesome projects for her to do. They made a tshirt with crayons and sand paper, Mom showed her what seashells to look for, we all went on the beach at night with a flashlight and looked for crabs… Caroline had a stupendous time. Mom knows what’s up. That’s why, tonight when we were talking to Caroline and I told her, “Kelley says hello, and she misses you. She told me that today,” (which she had, while we looked through the Hanna A. catalog) Caro replied, “I miss her too. She is nice and always does fun things. I love her.

I love her too. All moms are awesome, but my Mom is the best. 🙂 She will know exactly what costume to make for the most adorable, pretty, and smart little girl I know for her first foray into the magic that is the Renaissance Festival. Then, when I mess up while making said costume, she will know exactly how to fix whatever it is I did. I’m so lucky to have her on speed dial. I love you, Mom!!!

Missoni for Target Recap, GF Goodness, and Cautionary Tales from Bulk Foods

1. I went to Target yesterday for Missoni. There was so little Missoni I felt like weeping. They done been cleaned OUT. Mom said people at the Target on Main had been taking things out of each other’s carts. Party foul, Target shoppers. Apparently one lady even got all in Mom’s business, asking, “Are you talking to someone at the San Felipe store?!?!?” Mom was talking to Aunt Stacie in Atlanta. Wow. Just… Wow. A woman at my cheap Target on 290 insisted to me that she knows the Chronicle’s fashion editor, and that she said Target would be re-stocking through October. My take? Target only buys the Missoni name for a certain number of items for a certain amount of time. If the website is sold out, then I doubt there will be more Missoni on Target shelves in Houston, Texas. I know, Doomsday. Sorry, loves. eBay has a fabulous selection, though.

2. I love Rice Epicurean Markets. First of all, they have amazing specials on meat every weekend. Beef tenderloins are ridiculously cheap. The guys at the butcher counter will even cut the one you want into roasts and steaks and freezer pack it all for you. Second, it can get crowded, but not in the way Central Market or the gigantic Kroger near my house can. You can pretty much always be in and out of there in less than thirty minutes, even if you’re getting a fair amount of stuff. Thirdly, and most importantly, Rice carries a ton of Gluten-Free options. This is important because Nikki and Hannah (my BFF and Fave Lil’ Cuz-lette, respectively) are both celiac. I have found all kinds of gluten-free temptations on their aisles. GF chocolate chip pancakes, anyone? Yes, please! They are frozen and delicious and perfect for school mornings. Also frozen are GF lemon streusel muffins, blueberry waffles, chocolate-coated donuts, and cinnamon raisin bread. They have tons of different flours, flavored crackers and pretzels, and they even have GF breadcrumbs! It’s so nice to be able to cut that step out of cooking. Trustworthy GF shortcuts are not always easy to find. I got Hannah a bunch of gluten-free booty (arg!) the other day before our girls’ night out, and when I was leaving the parking lot I actually called Rice’s corporate headquarters to thank them for making Hannah and Nicole a priority. How nerdy am I?? While Fiesta is still my usual destination (they also have a lot of GF items in stock), Rice is by far the best place to go for celiac snacks.

3. I made Gluten-Free French Bread for Nikki on our Friend-iversary. It was very tasty, and  it was admittedly difficult for Justin and I to stop quality-controlling her gift. The recipe is posted in PDF on the Recipes page, and linked to the original website here. Thank you, Sonja Stewart, for coming up with this excellent recipe! I will definitely be making it again.

4. A note about the bulk food department: BEWARE. The bulk food section is chock full of cross-contamination. I know, I sound like Alton Brown. It’s the truth, though! There is no way to keep people from using the wrong scoops in bins, spilling items between bins, or (yuck) sticking their grubby hands into bins. I just spoke to an associate in bulk at Central Market on the phone, and he said, “It’s frustrating to watch people just reach on in for almonds with their hands in front of everyone on a Saturday.” NARSTY!!! Apparently their time is more valuable than others’ health. CM, Whole Foods, and Fiesta all had similar stellar sterilization methods for cleaning bins between uses, but unfortunately no one can control that human factor. Fiesta and Whole Foods mentioned routinely cleaning the bulk area, washing the scoops regularly, vacuuming and wiping down the bins throughout the day, and tossing merchandise known to be contaminated with potential allergens. WF goes so far as to set up it’s organic goods above its conventional ones, and non-allergen products above allergens to prevent cross-contamination as much as possible. Good work, Whole Foods! ¡Buen trabajo, Fiesta! (Note: I’m not saying Kroger and CM don’t, but I did inquire about the general regimen and neither of their employees mentioned these things.) So. If you’re cooking for someone with an allergy, say a Nikki, and you want to get some soy powder, it’s probably not the best to buy it from CM bulk where it sits between a wheat product and a milk product, and there is indeterminate white stuff everywhere. I asked the lady to please get me some from the back. Just something to keep in mind. 🙂