Tuesday, April 29, 2014

DO Try this at Home, Volume 1: Shopping and Sushi Bowls

Welcome to the first guest post from my dear friend Angella.  As I mentioned yesterday, Ang lives in Portland, Oregon with her fiancé, Mike.  She came up with the awesome idea of testing some SMJ-inspired recipes and meal planning tips and writing about it, and I love her unique voice and sense of humor, as well as the opportunity to host her here on the blog.  Enjoy her first adventure in meal planning + sushi bowls!  Take it away, Ang...

Do you ever find yourself in a situation where your life resembles a pinball game – working too much, exercising too little, eating cereal for dinner, drinking for sanity’s sake, everyone wanting something from you?  You want to stand up and scream, “MAKE IT STOP!”  Well, nothing like a good spring cold to Shut. It. Down.  As I lay in a puddle on my sofa, tissues strewn, laptop on lap, multi-clicks into SMJ blogosphere, I decided to re-commit to health, both physical and mental.   And I’d lean on my life guru, SMJ, to do just that.  A la the movie Julia & Julia, I decided I was going to make everything on the Sweet Mama Jane blog and see if I could proposition Ms. SMJ into letting me put up a few blog posts about it. 

Of course, that was the Nyquil talking.  I’m not a writer, I don’t use Instagram and I am NOT a cook.  I can barely follow a recipe.   How can you not follow a recipe?   Most of the time I don’t have one or two of the ingredients or the recipe calls for some instrument I don’t have or a technique that’s over my head.  So, I improvise.  Which only works 50% of the time.   Luckily, Mike is just happy someone else is cooking and eats without complaint.   All that being said, I WANT to become a better cook.  This is where my knight in shining cyberspace, SMJ, comes into play.  SMJ will be my Julia.   And I will be that other Julie.  With better hair.
Amy Adams as Julie, setting the hair bar awfully low.
So, I’m committing to making SOME of the recipes on the Sweet Mama Jane blog and have convinced Ms. SMJ to let me do a post or two (yay!)   I offer no commitment to having even more than just this post and I apologize in advance for the shaky, un-staged iPhone photos.  Actually, no I don’t.  This is reader to reader, not blogger to audience.  (Plus I’ve tried REALLY hard to stay still for photos and I just can’t.) Best bet is to read after a few glasses of wine so you won’t notice.

The first thing I did was read a bunch of blogs on meal planning, via SMJ, of course.  My world has become SMJ.  I loved the idea of picking three big meals to make without committing to making them on certain days.  I also liked the concept of meal PREPPING on Sunday so that I’d be more likely to actually whip something up after a long grueling day.  With a list written on the back of an envelope, I hit three different stores and filled my car bumper to bumper.  I got my cardio workout in by schlepping the groceries up two flights of stairs (a perk of our new 2nd floor apartment.)  Then I had to find room for everything. 

Needless to say after all of that, I did NOT feel like cooking. Luckily, guru SMJ has a plan for that, offering several meal ideas that are quick and easy.  I opted for the Sushi Bowls. I couldn’t agree more about the hassle of trying to roll your own sushi.  Who has time, energy, or enough wine for that?  

First off, I couldn’t find sushi or short grain rice.  It’s probably at New Seasons and I went there first and didn’t grab it.  I did find medium grain rice, so I went with that.  I think it worked just as well.  I cooked it EXACTLY as instructed on the ValSoCal blog despite that not being my normal method for cooking rice.  It came out perfectly.  Why haven’t I followed directions before?  I whipped up the vinegar, sugar and salt mixture and “folded it in”  (assuming that means “stir it in.”)  It was really sweet and I had a momentary panic as I halved the amount of rice in the recipe for two of us but made the original amount of vinegar mix.  Luckily, once the soy sauce was added with the meal, the rice was A-MAZING. 

I splurged on real Alaskan King Crab legs.  I’d never bought crab before but after reading the ingredients of imitation Krab, I also can’t go there.  It’s the hot dog of the sea, people.  The nice butcher boy was kind enough to answer all of my questions.  I bought a half pound (two claws) for $8 at Fred Meyers.  

It was DIVINE.   It was easy to get the meat out after I watched this handy video.  

Carrots, cucumbers and avocado rounded out our bowls.   

I forgot the sesame seeds (darn it!)  Next time!  There will DEFINTELY be a next time.  As Mike would say, that was a plate licker!  Technically a bowl, dear. 
Next up: roasting a whole chicken.  I’m feeling confident, as SMJ favorite Ms. Ina Garten has included a VIDEO with her recipe.  Seriously, I can’t screw this up.
Thanks, Ang!
Love your post, love your cute placemats.

Before signing off, I just have to chime back in again on these sushi bowls, as they are currently heavily on our weekly rotation.  I love how you can make them as fancy or as simple as you want to; go all out with pickled ginger, fresh wasabi, nori strips, and sashimi-grade fish, or keep it super cheap and easy with baked tofu and a minimum of veggies (although the avocado is non-negotiable in my book).  I love to line up a big fixings bar with sriracha, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar and gomasio, all of which we usually have readily on hand.  I've also been loading up on nori sheets at Trader Joe's for .99 cents a package; they even have a delicious wasabi-flavored version (tip: they call it a "Roasted Seaweed Snack", and it is in with the chips and pretzels, but it's nori to me).  Since cucumbers, carrots and peppers are on the short list of veggies the kids will eat without a fight, we're always stocked on those, and therefore ready to make quick sushi bowls materialize.  They're such a healthy alternative to other quick weeknight dinners or to take out, and so satisfying.  Hopefully Ang and I might inspire you to give them a try.   

Thanks again to Angella for a fab post and all the gratuitous blog shout-outs... feeling the love. xoxo