Thursday, January 6, 2011

Eating for Hamilton

A few weeks before Christmas, it was suggested by a recent acquaintance that I try out for the EVMCO. That is, the East Valley Mormon Choral Organization. No, not singing. I mean, I have a decent voice and I can carry a pitch and all, but singing isn't really my thing when the option to hit things with sticks is a possibility. There is an orchestra attached to this choir organization. Orchestras usually have percussion section. This was about two weeks before Christmas. Problem is, I didn't have anything to practice on. I knew a few music people, so I'm pretty sure I could have found a band director to let me practice on a marimba or somesuch.

Enter Craigslist. Search term: Xylophone...

This is what now takes up half of my tiny, tiny living room. I've named him Hamilton (after the famous George Hamilton Green). Could I really afford this right now? No, not really. Have I wanted one of these for a really long time? Yes, yes I have. How long? Well, back then my wardrobe involved a grungy flannel and wearing overalls with one of the straps unhooked. Probably with a hyper-color shirt underneath. With pogs in my pocket and a slap bracelet on my wrist. Dreaming about the boy with steps shaved in his hair and rocking the Hammer pants. You get the idea.

It was a good deal, and then someone asked me if I would drive up to Utah with them for Christmas. Paying for gas is a lot cheaper than any plane ticket, so I was able to save some of the money that way. It was a stretch, but I scraped up the rest too. The lady selling it couldn't believe that someone actually wanted a xylophone. It seemed so random to her. I think its random that she had one in the first place. Things will be tight for the next little bit, but its been really fun to play again. Seeing as I only had 4 days to practice before the auditions for the EVMCO, it probably doesn't surprise anyone that I really blew the audition. Like REALLY blew the audition. I got really nervous and started 30 or 40 bpm faster than I can play that piece right now. Don't worry, I'm OK. Failing means I tried in the first place or some other sappy saying like that. I'm not scarred for life or anything. In the past not being part of an organized group meant that I didn't have any way to play. But now I do. Hooray for Hamilton!!

What does this have to do with food? Well, since I've moved down here I've tried several new restaurants. You know, scouting out the lay of the land and such. Problem is, restaurants are expensive. Especially the really yummy ones that have real waiters. Even the ones that involve drive-through windows and/or dollar menus can take a toll on your wallet if you go with any form of regularity. Spending money I hadn't planned on spending to get Hamilton in my life means I really need to keep an eye on my budget. One of my New Year's resolutions is to eat more of the food I already have at home. So today when I saw an ad for Sonic and I really wanted that BLT and Tots for $3. It would have been so easy and Sonic is on my way home. I resisted. Some way, somehow. Instead, I went home slapped something together that ended up being pretty tasty. I thought I'd share the 'recipe' with you. I didn't use a formal recipe, I just threw together stuff that seemed tasty and it worked out:

Chicken Pasta a la Hamilton

1 lb. Bowtie Pasta
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cubed

1 large onion
8 oz. cream
1/3 C. flour
32 oz. chicken stock
4 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, zest and juice
~3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Fresh ground black pepper

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Add a few teaspoons of salt to the water. While this is heating up, cut the onion up. I peeled the onion, cut it in quarters, and then cut these in 1/2 inch strips. Put these in a large saute pan with the olive oil. Cook over medium heat until they start to soften. Add the garlic and chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally. Add lemon zest, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. When the chicken is cooked, add the 1/3 C. flour and stir to absorb all of the olive oil. Cook this, stirring occasionally until the flour coating the chicken and onions starts to brown. At this point add the chicken stock. I had a box that was 32 oz and I didn't want to store a partially used thing so I added it all. You could easily substitute the canned stuff or even just use water and a couple of bouillon cubes. Oh, I threw in the lemon juice at this point too. Bring this all to a boil, stirring to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat down, but continue to simmer the mixture. The flour will start to thicken the stock. While this is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling, salted water. Boil pasta for 5 or 6 minutes. Drain the pasta (it won't be all the way cooked yet) and then add to the chickeny mess in the other pan. Add the cream at this point. Cook all together, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is done. The pasta will absorb some of the liquid and be more flavorful than if you let it cook all the way in the water. Pull off the heat and let sit for a few minutes for the sauce to thicken up a bit more. It was pretty saucy, so I ate it out of a bowl with a spoon. And then I had seconds.

I didn't take a picture of this one. Once you've seen one pasta dish with a white-ish sauce, you've seen them all. Plus, I didn't think of it until after I had already eaten. You're going to have to use your imagination.

There you have it. A tasty dinner with plenty of leftovers! I had some cheese I thought about adding, but this didn't really need anything else. I know most people don't have fresh thyme on hand, but using the dried stuff will change the flavor quite a bit. It would still be good, but not as good as if you had fresh thyme. I found some fresh thyme on clearance at the store a few days ago. Fresh thyme with lemon is SO TASTY to me. You could use fresh basil and throw in a few sun-dried tomatoes if you are fancy enough to have those on hand. Or, you could just use dried Italian seasoning instead of the thyme. This whole thing was just using what I had on hand. Feel free to experiment. This particular recipe was extra fun, because the lemons on the tree outside my house are finally getting ripe. So I got to walk outside and pick one. It was super cool. I give you permission to be jealous. The grapefruits are still pretty green, so I haven't experimented with them yet. I might make a batch of grapefruit marmalade or something.

We'll see.


  1. Karen, I just love you. The fact that you bought a xylophone is hilarious, and awesome. Also, the fact that it inspired you to make awesome food is the best.

    When you do start venturing out into restaurant land again, I have a suggestion. There is a GREAT ice cream place in central phoenix called Mary Coyles. It's a bit of a drive, but totally worth it. They also make good BLTs. :)

    I miss you!

  2. I was laughing at the ingredients that you just happened to have on hand! I am glad Hamilton is in your life, and good luck next audition.

  3. HAHHAHHAH.your vision of the 80s made me cackle

  4. boo to auditions that blow. yeah to pasta with white sauce and xylophones. -brian