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Getting My Heart Rate Up with the Food Network

I have become one of those weird people who watches the Food Network while working out at the gym. I used to wonder why someone would watch a cooking show while trying to burn off the extra pounds. It seemed like a strange sort of torture to ratchet up your heart rate and watch people construct food you wouldn’t let yourself eat. Instead, I would look for my favorite detective show and get down to the business of sweating. Over time, I found myself surreptitiously watching the TV next to mine and trying to guess what the host was discussing. Now, I unabashedly flip on Food Network and ignore the doubtful looks from fellow gym patrons.

Today, I caught most of an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef with Anne Burrell followed by 30 Minutes Meals with Rachel Ray. Both ladies were entertaining, but I was struck by how much oil they both cook with. Anne Burrell dowsed baby potatoes liberally with olive oil, then seared a half chicken in more oil. The pan fried chicken was eventually placed on top of the oil-braised potatoes and the entire plate was sprinkled with some finishing oil. She gushed for a while about how succulent and moist the chicken was and I was thinking, “Man that’s a lot of oil!”. I typically find that most recipes call for too much oil, and the recipes are oil moderate compared to the food show hosts I saw today! I like my food flavorful…but I don’t really enjoy greasy fare.

For example, I chose a bowl of tortilla soup today for lunch. We were celebrating the birthday of one of my coworkers who picked Las Margaritas for lunch.  I didn’t grow up eating Mexican food (my mother professes to dislike all Mexican cuisine) so it took me a while to get into the flavors and textures of Mexican or Tex-Mex food after leaving home. I do enjoy it now, but I find a lot of Mexican restaurants drown their entrees in cheese. I love cheese, and I think in general, a little goes a long way. Thus I tend to leave the smothered burritos, enchiladas, flautas, and Chile Verdes to the others at the table and focus on the soups and salads instead.

Chips with Spicy Salsa

Tortilla Soup with Grilled Chicken

Las Margaritas on Urbanspoon

At Las Margaritas, I generally order their tortilla soup. It is broth based and clear instead of creamy. They put a lot of chunks of grilled chicken into the soup, and large chunks of avocado. There is cheese in the soup, but not an excessive amount. The tortilla strips in the soup are almost an after thought. I like to add a liberal amount of their spicy salsa to my soup.

Las Margaritas has become a go-to restaurant for my workgroup. The entrees are generally $10 or less, the restaurant has a lot of space with both an upper and lower floor dining area, and they always seem to be able to accommodate larger groups. The servers that we’ve had have invariably been friendly, and we’ve never been hassled for wanting to split a check 6 ways. The restaurant doesn’t even add a standard gratuity for larger parties!

After work, Boyfriend and I went to Redmond to do a little shopping. First stop was REI to buy some water proofer for my boots. I love my Asolo boots, but I’ve put a lot of miles on them and have completely worn out whatever waterproof coating they came with. Next, we visited Bed, Bath & Beyond to get a cake carrier. More on that to come, next week!

I was starving by the time we got home and got started on dinner right away. We had a lot of veggies in the fridge, so my plan was to make a chicken stir-fry. Because a stir-fry cooks so quickly, I’ve learned that it is better to prep all of your ingredients prior to starting. That way, you’re not trying to frantically flip the food in a sizzling pan as you chop, grate, dice, and sear. After getting some short-grained, brown, basmati rice going in the rice cooker, I started pulling vegetables out of the fridge.

I began by mincing some ginger and a clove of garlic for the marinade. I added fish sauce, soy sauce, and some brown sugar to the marinade and gave it a stir while I thinly sliced the chicken.

Marinade made with fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, and diced fresh garlic and ginger.

Thinly sliced chicken breast, marinading.

I minced two more cloves of garlic and some ginger and set them aside. For the vegetables, I peeled and julienne sliced carrots, chopped celery, sliced mushrooms, and broke down broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces. I minced half a red bell pepper, and thinly sliced a whole yellow onion before I was ready to start.

I heated about a tablespoon of coconut oil to the wok and added crushed red peppers and the minced fresh garlic and ginger once the oil was hot. The onions were added next, followed by the carrots.

Once the onions began to get some color, I added the bell pepper, broccoli, celery, and mushrooms. When the vegetables were a little more than half-way cooked, I pulled them out of the pan and started cooking the chicken with the marinade.

Vegetables about halfway done.

Wow did that sizzling chicken smell good!

After the chicken was cooked, I added chopped kale and cilantro, and then scooped the cooked vegetables back into the pan to heat through. Once everything was hot, I deglazed the pan with some Mirin and then turned of the heat.

Finished stir-fry

Nutty brown basmati rice.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Broccoli, Red Bell Pepper, Yellow Onion, Carrots, Mushrooms, Celery, Kale, and Cilantro.

Dinner was so good! The chicken picked up so much flavor from the ginger and garlic and the vegetables were cooked until crisp-tender.  With my glass of wine and Holiday music going, I really enjoyed doing all the prep and cooking.

After dinner, Boyfriend and I took Taro out for a walk to see if we could find a good display of Christmas lights. I brought my camera with both the prime and the zoom lens and played with shutter speeds. I found that the automatic settings moved the ISO to around 1600; when I went to the manual mode, I found that I could shoot a clear picture with an ISO of 400! This was a test run; I’m hoping to go find some of those houses where it looks like Christmas vomited all over their yards, and I needed to see what type of shutter speed and ISO my camera could handle.

The best-dressed house we found on our walk tonight.

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