Top Chef

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Jumping around Top Chef a little lately for the first time as I had never watched it. I began watching it for two reasons, but one of them was after reading a new article about Chef Nina Compton ( See here Chef Nina Compton )

Her season (11) of Top Chef took place in New Orleans (with some at the end in Hawaii) and she is from St. Lucia so all of that interested me. I have also been on a huge kick from San Antonio to Florida on women chef’s and women owned and run restaurants. I had been to both her first and her newest restaurant in New Orleans. So…I watched the season 11 Top Chef.

Joe comes home and with him and with an upcoming project and being on the restaurant kick and he and I being total foodies (we travel for food but as example our Sunday was a bite shared and a drink at several restaurants, creating our own little through town tour. Before that in another city. In one weekend we’ve done two cities. One being New Orleans, all tying into the Top Chef watching. I had already previously mapped out the majority of our little tour myself but a few extra got added in. That food truck, though…..

Mostly drink wise we judged on Old Fashioned and French75’s. Let. Me. Tell. You just how BAD a bartender can be…and just how amazing. There was a patron margarita in there as well that I will admit, as a come from Texas gal, was the best done drink I’d ever lay on my taste buds. I don’t even like margaritas much.

This is how we travel. Usually not as much on the drinks as this weekend but we felt like remembering that we were grown ups. We enjoyed our time and ate and drank a lot of water and meandered slowly. And we truly enjoyed some classic drinks and a lot of judging because we are very judge people. We enjoyed at each place good bartender conversations as bonus…or bad like their obviously don’t know what a French75 even is kind.
Funny enough…the personality usually matched their drink ability.

So…anyway…all about Top chef these days. Nina is awesome….how the heck a chef who had to be told he had no salt on EVER single dish, and turned out TERRIBLE dishes on several attempts won over her I just don’t understand. But the woman moved to New Orleans (from Florida at the time where she was chef) and opened her very own beautiful restaurant. And since then…a second as well more recently. She ain’t no small deal and maybe the title of Top Chef wasn’t won by TV reality but it was certainly won by peoples hearts and palettes and I can understand why by both show, meeting her, and tasting everything on her menu’s.

With Joe home I decided to jump to watch the Charleston season (season 14) but it was SO bad that we had to switch and try another season. NOLA S11 had been produced SO well and the show as a first really sold me on the TV show altogether. Charleston would have ruined it full stop had it been first. It was just poorly produced to tears of boredom and lack of clarity, a badly put together team (although I was excited for Shirley back from season 11). I will likely discuss that in more detail later.

So, I jumped to Season 10, the episodes prior to the one I had enjoyed so much. And…better than Charleston. Not as better as New Orleans for sure. Even down to I see clearly when and where Padma (love her) really finally gets a real and good stylist (from hair to makeup to clothes finally) to the team working a bit better together and more. However…still more out of kitchen drama than in and frankly…I ain’t here to watch a soap opera. The production on season 10 is much better than season 14 but still pretty terrible and not clear on what some of the challenges even are or the end product of the food (both parts of which season 14 truly failed on greatly) and where New Orleans season 11 was VERY god on. My full props go to production, stylists, team, chef’s, and every detail of season 11. Even Judges discussion, played out challenges where all so well done and kept a person from boredom.

I still can’t get over the obvious stylists changes you can tell for Padma…like my bartenders and a French75…some people had it…some did not. Greatly. Did. Not.

Still watching season 10 now and soon I look forward to trying the after my favorite season 11 and jumping to 12 and see how that one goes. Then I am looking forward to watching the Kentucky season happening as we speak. I will totally have to watch Miami (s4) and of course, Texas (s9) if I don’t watch the entire catch up of it all. I don’t know, as much as I’d love to finish a Charleston season, if I can make myself finish S14 at all. I ask #BRAVO for a redo.

Also…throw out there real quickly…I LOVE chef’s Table but also my newest start on Salt Fat Acid Heat two eps in and I am swooning.

Florida. Livable Community.

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So my travels have begun with Florida. Florida is a place that I have been in and out of a few times for equestrian related things in my long ago past but I never really got to see it and never have I been to Hollywood or Miami where I’ve been able to go this Spring/Summer. Btw, anybody know any ideas on natural safe sunblock? I can’t stand slathering cancer causing chemicals on my skin only to prevent cancer but even staying covered up my skin is needing it here.
I am meeting family and playing tourist and living the food, art, walkability, of the community.

I am still surprised not to see much of a biking community here (In Hollywood area mostly) though the traffic, round abouts roads and such are a little scary. Though Miami Beach and St. Augustine, Florida are listed on Wikipedia as car-free communities in the world. And I have found Hollywood and Miami Beach to be incredibly walkable with a decent pubic transport. The grocery is easier and closer to get to than Galveston for me and the sidewalks and safe neigborhoods give me no reason to see why you couldn’t live car-free here.

The Street list’s Miami as a car-free place to retire.
But not everybody likes the Heat either.
I am a huge fan of both mid-century and art-deco architecture and living by the water. The water ways here are so awesome and the way it is but and laid out is just really…well thought I think. There are more yachts then boats and the amount of sailboats has me swooning.

I have lost some of my pictures from this trip but will take some more. Frankly I can’t get enough. It is so sunny and pretty here and the entire state seems to well thought out. From living young or retired to vacation and tourism to shops, Entertainment and restaurants and parks and greespace and on the water life and fun.

The food is very affordable. I have been really surprised, though Joe keeps reminding me that I live on what we call “Island Prices” back in Galveston. In one other comparison is how different the menu’s are from restaurant to restaurant and in a two bock radius there are no less than forty restaurants. The island really offers very little in type and then on top of that the problem there is that each place has the same menu…and usually even the same cooks who have rotated around to each place. Small town living. Sigh. I am not trying to bash but there it is.I love it. Sometimes I want to fix it. Like a bad relationship.

Joe and I have loved it here and got really interested in the thought of investing in a home here. We are still looking into that and I am still trying to figure out why so many homes are in foreclosure but also something about not being forced to move once you are? Not sure so if anybody can shed some light that would be great. Aside from foreclosure we are finding beautiful homes for half the price they would be on the island. Not bad at all…and swoon…many mid-century or art-deco ! And pools!

I’ve been a bit surprised by having read that a lot of people say that there is no diversity here….as in no Asian or Indian, very little African-American or black and mostly Spanish. I have found a wide variety of Spanish from all kinds of places (Cuba being only one) and a lot of Jamaican and Thai and even Indian (maybe not as much in restaurants is all.) Though Spanish is probably the heaviest of all of those it seems pretty even with white. Of course for me I change and travel to a lot of places and each place will be heavier in one or two than another so it doesn’t freak me out or even bother me. It just seems to be a heavy topic when looking things up about Florida on the www and an observation.

And how I love the Cuban’s for the food….my heart belongs to the Cubano sandwich.
BTW, a really cute recommended movie is the Chef , but be ready to be hungry is you watch it. It’s on Netflix.
I AM very pleasantly surprised at the huge artistic community that Florida offers, especially in the Hollywood area. There are Artwalks here and not far there is a (soon to be visited) Artist Lofts of Artspace. The parks and greenspace really blows me away…and the tree’s ! It’s very family friendly here but seemes a very bend of young and single, older and retired, lower and very upper class, family and children, business and art. I am still hunting out some live local music spots that aren’t about and for the tourists.

We haven’t headed to the keys yet and are actually planning to come back in winter for that and head up to Chicago before snow weather happens. But there is still so much more to see in Florida and cant do it all in one trip.

The trailer home parks and tiny old motels still fascinate me. The historic preservation . Especially in a hurricane hit state.
The colors…oh my…the colors.

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Florida Living. Food. Library. Coffee. Trees.

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I have lived in Galveston for six years and one of the things that brought me there was the architecture (more of the industrial and Down Town than the Victorian), and now it’s onto other travels and adventures and my first place, Hollywood, Florida, has really offered me a lot on the architectural front.

Not only that but the preservation that amazes me and the mid-century and art-deco that are my favorites. The city lay out (Hollywood, Miami especially which include the greenspaces, parks, trees, restaurants and shops, outside seating, bike boardwalks at the beach, a large spread of beach (and wash off systems and public bathrooms at the beach, which if Galveston took a lesson means that people will actually come off the beach to shop and eat at restaurants), the fact that they have recycling bins at the beach (eh hem, Galveston, stop making me compare.) And they have a more set up trash system at the beach which I see working for keeping it clean and making people care more than what I have seen in Galveston.

The boating, houses on water ways and the waterway/canals are so awesome and everything…traffic to boats to parks to beach to Down Town all seem to blend so easily. The bright and clean look of it here strikes me (on stucco and in the humid weather), and the art, and the recycling at the beaches, show that the city and the people put a lot into the beauty of Florida. There is seriously no dirty here. Everything is shiny, colorful and bright, and clean.

There is much to explore, and here I am absorbing it all.

The street art, artistic community of Hollywood, Florida, and the parks built for art are really awesome. The Art Park has an event just about every night and is only a bock away from where I stay, it’s beautiful with the most amazing huge trees by day, great picnic and reading. Classic Car shows, a Food Truck night, food and wine festivals, an Artwalk and more, every night. They have an entire gallery and stage building built just for glass blowing and have live shows as well as “make your own”. The city obviously puts a lot of money and focus into the artistic community and it’s a great blend of retired, young adult, families, and artists, and business. There are also a lot of art galleries and studios around here, too.

I’ve lost some of my pics but will try and replace/retake.

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Pegs Kitchen. The Taste of Summer.

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When the seasons change so do the taste buds. The tree’s grow their offerings and gardens get planted and fruit is the way to go. Trying to “shop seasonally” is much harder done than said since this day and age everything is accessible all year round in this country and prices are basically the same as well in large grocery stores, with some sales and exceptions. To even know what is “seasonal” anymore is not to judge by what is in the produce section of the local grocery store. But to know what is seasonal in your region, as the saying goes ‘ It’s 5 O’Clock somewhere’ so does the produce grow.
However the heat of the summer season has ones tastes buds craving a lighter crisp and cooler taste over the heavy cravings we want during our winter months. The thought of fruits, berries, colorful salads and plates of lemon peppered fish are more the way one might lean. Changing my dish, cooking ideas, and my shopping searches, farmers market visits and more are all a part of the seasonal and kitchen fun for me. Cooking for me as an activity, not a chore, and shopping for good ingredients, when I can, is the same. Even where I travel to at the moment plays a role (Florida being all about the Cuban foods and shopping at all of the places they show in the movie Chef.)
Another fun part about seasonal change and the foods that come with it are the different colors to enjoy.

 

I am always down for a good salad and when at home I especially enjoy making various salads full of all kinds of whatever I throw in. I enjoy making sure I have fats, proteins, omegas, anti-oxidants and other nutrition, though. It’s not all just about being pretty. But with being healthy is also being tasty.

 

One thing that is always a bit of an abundant difference in the grocery stores is perhaps the berries. It is also a delight. Now, I still prefer farmers market or home grown but ether way there is that special something that says “Summer Is Here!” when you first spot the berries at the grocery store…or the farmers market…or on the vine.

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And the bottom line is the fact that I love my Colorful Kitchen, not just the decor and dishes, but also of the foods.

Pegs Kitchen & Picnic Sandwiches.

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Picnic season had me looking up pinterest…then getting hangry…then looking up more Pinterest while eating, making an entire new board for picnic food ideas. I am sure this was while I was really supposed to be working on something else.

Now I will say that a few things have been decided through this summer. For this topic of picnic foods, if you plan to hike, etc in this super heat of summer then bread-y things are NOT as good out there as the idea while making them them in the a/c of your home is. So two different types of picnics can be planned. One of which you leave your nice cooled air conditioned home to your nice air conditioned car and then a blanket under a shady tree with basically a nap or a book afterwards plan. Or the cool weather picnics of any season other than summer plan, so three types because the third type is a picnic of non-bread-y ideas, cheeses, nuts, fruits and meats kind of thing.

But in my experimenting I had found this one yummy sandwich idea that coincided with Joe’s mentions of loving the meats involved and I thought I would make a yummy Joe’s Meat lovers picnic sandwich.

We did not end up taking this into the heat of southern Summer but rather ate it in the comfort of our home while watching movies of other people having summer picnics.

I personally am not the biggest fan of pesto. I love it but in very light amounts. Also I only enjoy it fresh but not having a food processor and being on the easy-breezy side I chose to try it out with a ready-made. My mistakes #1. So my change to this would be for sure lighter on the pesto or rather a red roasted pepper spread for my next try. I would also like to try a more flavorful and even firmer cheese as the recipe called for, not sure why I went this soft cheese direction and though it worked and was very good, next time I will try something else. This go around was done by this recipe (perhaps not by amount of however as a small amount of pesto was not about to cover this much bread) and it tasted incredible and Joe loved it with no changes at all. He even took some to the DMV for the nice lady he finally ended up dealing with (on his fifth visit and an entire other location.)

I do highly recommend this sandwich (recipe I used found here) for the picnic idea though, even in a warm summer picnic without the hike. And it would be a pretty good party sandwich as well. But it was fun to make. Super easy. It seemed pricey (the meats) but it gave us days of lunches (even Joe who eats a ton) and I learned that it freezes well (I tested one piece worth) plus it is really pretty. Also I am proud of a pinterest first being a Win!

What are some of your favorite picnic food?

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Book stack coming in handy as a sandwich press =)

Pegs Kitchen. The Fruits of Summer.

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Summer time and fruit just go hand in hand. All of a sudden the cravings of hot soups and chilli’s turn toward crisp salads and thirst quenching fruits.

The time of year also brings back memories of my Uncle who brought flats of home grown strawberrys the size of my fist to family gatherings and that first sweet taste of a strawberry each year.

My parents were not garden people and though I tried a few summers to turn a patch of dusty dirt into something that would grow as a kid I was usually over the projects before I had cleared the grass. The year I learned that manure was good for the soil was an interesting one of gathering manure from my horses and spreading it through the yard.

As an adult I moved or have been busy or the excuse of renting and my feeble too few attempts of home growth have never taken off. I still have dreams but my pinterest garden is far more cultivated than my realistic one.

Regardless it is the season of large melons, new colors that delight the eye and tastes fresh once again to the palate.

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In awe of Houston.

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I am off on other travels and experiences, but before doing so I had realized that in my time living back in Texas as an adult, rather than when I did as a child, and my six years on Galveston Island, I had not taken advantage fully of all the the big city of Houston had to offer.

When I first moved here I had been newly from many other travels after having left California. I had spent many days jumping on the metro bus system and letting it take me where it took me. I wandered all over Houston, exploring by myself. And yet I still never saw nearly at all what it had to offer. My favorite place was actually on the bus, people watching. People on the way to work, or tired after their day from it. I also explored the Down Town Houston Library. Bliss. And so very a place to visit. Museum like in its-self. Funny how public libraries are far from only stuffy shelves of books but often places in themselves a tourist attraction (Another reason to keep them open.) And always a place of learning and exploration.

 

I’d worked in Houston but my experience then was much of driving in traffic to and from work. Never something that makes a person fond of a busy city full of millions of people…doing the same thing, at about the same time. I had the chance to see inside a lot of beautiful homes, however, and the bliss of some of the architecture and design had me swooning. I then have spent years wrapped up in Galveston and recently decided to begin exploring Houston again before I left Galveston and Houston. I took my camera with me and foot to pavement or ride around usually as passenger with J as we let ourselves get lost and my camera often to my eye.

Enjoying many foods in Houston has been a fun thing, Galveston is pretty limited and there is much to explore in just the foods of Houston. Anthony Bourdain recently had much to say about Houston and what food cuture here teaches us, in Houstonia Magazine

My favorite go to for crunchy taco’s is still Taco’s A Go-Go, discovered years ago when up here for live music.

Which takes me to discuss the live music available in Houston. Aside from the amazing theaters they offer for music concerts, plays, dances, opera and more, the local live music scene here is hard to beat and not one to pass over.

Ellago Band

Wild Moccasins.

Two Star Symphony

And so many more. You can catch some great ones here.

But I also love the Museum Days and the days exploring the greenways, parks, gardens, and outdoors that this huge wide spread city has to offer. I’ve gone to many, spent hours tiring my feet out walking through them, and have yet to even begin touching on all that is available here.

The history of Houston, economics, and politics have always fascinated me. It is the home-base where my grandparents taught me of such things growing up. The first woman in office for me to ever know and learn about almost intimately was here, and also Houstons first female mayor, Kathryn Witmire. Not only did the decade of my birth bring Houstons first female Mayor, but also the first woman elected into any office in the city of Houston. A city built on oil….a good ol’ boys game. And women have played the game well ever since in creating the city of Houston into what it is today. One that goes far beyond the oil.

It is, a city of opportunity.

The city built on industry has turned into one now in the economy of some of the largest in multiple industries. The arts are hard to rival and between the arts, museums, music from rock to classic, big stage to local, foods, colleges, innovation, and melting pot of it all, this city has a lot to show you. Economy and industry are strong in too many fields to list. The Arts, Medical, Communications, Law, and so many that have nothing at all to do with oil, still a strong economy for us. Houston is a city that will never fold, never fail, never die.

So how could I leave before I had a chance to explore? To become reacquainted? to see the city that my grandparents had moved to? And the largest city near where I was raised during childhood with parents who had a love of museums?

I spent afternoons walking walking the streets, would turn each corner, stare up at the skyscrapers and revel at the architecture of such a new city, such a new place, one that sets perfect example of what can be started from very little or even nothing and beat all odds. And I am in awe.

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Pegs Kitchen. Many stories come from the kitchen.

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I love spending time in the kitchen and have since I was a kiddo. Back when I was seven, I thought cooking for my large family standing on a stool next to my mom was a cool thing. In my teens I thought cooking for my even then bigger family and pealing ten pound bags of potatoes about three times a week was more like those Popeye cartoons when being in the Navy meant pealing piles and piles of never ending potatoes.
But I did keep holding onto my enjoyment of cooking.

I went to New York City at a very early…and broke…age. I lived in a models apartment and went one of the trips with only $40 bucks in my pocket. $40 in Manhattan does not get you very far. I remember my first grocery shopping trip and seeing that the cheapest bell pepper cost $3, this was back nearly twenty years ago (which having just done that math made me realize how fucking old I am now) I also was away from home and having come from the deep south and large family I made some comfort food for my first meal, macaroni and cheese and fried chicken. Not exactly models food. I had the could eat a dump truck load of food and not gain an ounce metabolism then, too. Sigh. So the southern young teenager with great metabolism in me just didn’t know better that in a house full of models and trying to make it on the fashion scene of Manhattan, home made macaroni & cheese with fried chicken wasn’t exacty ‘kosher’. But it does make a damn good comfort food for a little ninety eight pound at five feet nine inches girl who was in the big city rather than in the comfort of her books and horses in the country back home.

So after nearly having a heart attack at aged sixteen upon the price of New York foods, I carted my brown bags home and began my whirlwind through the kitchen. The smell soon whafting through my amazing New York models apartment which had an entire wall that was a window overlooking the city with a view of the brooklyn bridge.

Before I knew it these other waif exotic unicorns I lived with that I had only recently met and who all had accents from Russia, France, and Seattle at the time. These long legged creatures who wore magazine fashion on the daily, looking as if they stepped straight off the pages of Vogue even as they woke up. As a young girl just getting into all those fashion magazines I was a little bit in awe. The funny thing was, me being from Texas, I was as exotic to them as they were to me. And the fact that, yes, I did have horses back home, just added to it.

I remember the one from Moscow but born in Kahkistan, the exotic dark eye’d and haired beauty of our loft (we seriously had the red, blond and black hair thing going, and a brown headed one to add in) gliding in to our open kitchen-living area (she glided, that one, she totally had a glide about an inch above the ground) and ask what I was making, once she heard the answer she began going on and on in her deep Russian accent (and in her movie star style, everything she said was over-exhausterated) calling the others in and exclaming about how she had never had a southern meal and another kept calling it “authentic mac&cheese” and all of them looked comparable to the three drooling dogs I would have a decade later while watching me in the kitchen. I, being the southern gal I am, of course made enough to feed an army. I had just come from only knowing how to cook for a family of ten or gatherings of even more. Plus when you are southern you just feed people anyway, especially when they look as hungry as a stick skinny waif of a model who weighs under a hundred pounds at six feet tall can look. And hearing how exotic my southern food seemed to even the girl from Seattle, all beig under aged twenty and all far away from mothers and comforts of homes, how could I not feed them?

Over that meal was born from the group of girls the idea to add money to a jar to buy ingrediants for meals, when I would cook, I would make big meals for them and eat off of them, and anytime I cooked, not knowing how to tone down my large amounts, there was usually plenty for days for all of us out of each meal to be put away in the freezer….making my $40 turn into a season of feeding myself just fine before monies of other scources actually came in.

I wish that I had photos from that time. I had played tourists with my cheap little real film camera back then but have since lost all of the mostly undeveloped rolls of films through various moves, divorces, fires, and floods. But It is only one story among many involving food in my life.

 

 

Pegs Kitchen

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Food is an item that, like it or hate it, our life revolves around it. Entire economies revolve around growing it, creating it, cooking it, shopping for it, making pieces and items of it, cooking it, selling it.
Eating a meal together is a time when enemies and families can all come together and set aside differences for at least a moment.
Preparing the meal is a time, for me, of meditation. A non-hurried process that gives me as much as I give to it. I get what I give. It is an ease of hard work, so to speak. A time when you can put your mind to rest and task at the same moment together. When laziness will give you un-taste and lack of enjoyment but effort and care will create not only much for your palate but also for your enjoyment of time.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking from the time I was a little girl and wanted to help prepare our families meals. I was always an experimenter with ingredients and creations even as a child, a teenager, and now a woman. In my adult life I’ve never shied away from trying something new, allowing my tongue to learn it’s way around the world. My senses to be filled. And memories to be made with complete strangers friends over food.
I enjoy shopping for it, growing it when I can, learning about it, creating it, serving it to loved ones, and I very much enjoy eating it.

Making Spaghetti Bolognese, listening to music, and enjoying good aromas, then enjoying the good tastes of a non-hurried prepared meal while watching #Palio  #NoSlackingWhenCookingForOne #Afternoondelight #PegsKitchen #ColorfulKitchen #InTheKitchen

Boyscouts don’t have anything on us when being prepared.

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Like our purses, you need something, we’ve got something. We women are always prepared. In travel we bring twenty pairs of shoes because we might need twenty paairs of shoes. Our freezers are no different.
J has decided that my freezer is my version of a Mary Poppins Carpet Bag.
He is off for a couple of weeks sort of unexpected (we thought he would go straight to work after the school but has to wait to get back onto his own regular shift, all thrown off)
We haven’t even been to a grocery yet since he’s been back this weekend and I keep pulling new meals from the fridge each breakfast, lunch and dinner.
 
Breakfasts have been or are planned as (I just got teased for the planning) anything from entire bagel setups to eggs/potato/bacon/bean breakfasts and more.Not to mention the huge bowl of fruit for the day long picking.
 
Lunches have been from tuna salad filled avocados to egg salad on top of greens salads, home made soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, BBQ pork sliders, and more.
 
Dinners have been bahn mi sandwiches, hawaiian fried rice, katsudon, Brown sugar glazed pork loin/mashed golden pots/garlic roasted broccoli, home made macaroni and cheese and ribeye steaks, home made jambalaya, spaghetti with a good crusty bread and salad of course. Tuna and rice dishes with veggies like brussel sprouts, Stuffed bell peppers. The list goes on.
 
He keeps asking if we need to do a store run. So far no…but after today for some milk/fresh veggies/ we will. Otherwise that freezer still has a lot of odds and ends, soups, and pieces of meals if not entire meals in it. So I am getting teased. Funny part is when by myself I don’t eat half of that and am more of the quinoa and veggies type alone….of which I also have plenty of.
 
I have an always be prepared mentality when it comes to food. Broth? I have it. Cuttings for new broth to be made? Check. Anything to throw into an omolette? Gotcha. Rice bowls of all sorts? Can do. Soups? Always. Beans? Are you joking? Of course. What kind would you like? Fresh veggies prepared and cut up and then frozen in whatever way you need them? Have that, too. Meats even when barely eat them on my own? I could feed a southern family renunion BBQ right now.
We haven’t even hit on the dry cabinet stuff. Got that, too. Rices/dry beans/lentils/quinoa and a bunch of other stuff? And not a single canned item except peas and various canned fish, all of which I also have in the freezer.
Here are just a few items I’ve managed to ever put together.
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