Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Grillin' Goals

Through the entire course of Matt and I's relationship, our big, enormous, Mt. Everest mutual goal was to own our own home.  It was something Matt shared within weeks of our first date (hey, I love you came after 3!), and hey, it sounded good to me.  It drove us to continually strive for the best we could get in our careers, and influenced (sort of, sometimes) smart early financial decisions.  Sure, we endured some major setbacks, my 8-month layoff being a prime example.  In the end of the beginning, it worked out for the best - we were able to take advantage of recession pricing and programs, loved each other enough to pull through the psychologically menacing closing nightmare, and keep afloat in the six months since.  It is definitely one of the accomplishments in my life I'm most proud of.  In our relationship, it wins hands-down the "best of" contest.  I mean, come on.  Any idiot can get married.

True, picking the right person and making it last takes a little more finesse.  But I digress.

Since then, we haven't been able to come up with any more enormous, lofty goals.  Kids remain a fuzzy proposition many miles and bridges ahead, "go to Germany" is laughably ambiuous, "learn German" almost as much so.  So far our subsequent goals have been small little steps confined in four walls, "level up" steps to bring up the value and enjoyment of our accomplishment.

Matt's list is kind of like this:
1.  TV (to replace the big 32" circa 1998 monster, thus rendering my really nice entertainment cabinet useless)
2.  Beer brewing equipment
3.  Yet another TV for brewing area

Mine is a little bit like:
1.  Painting to go over the fireplace
2.  Actual bed to replace the Hollywood frame I got for moving out of my dorm
3.  Fire pit so we can have s'mores cookout parties!!!!

We meet in the middle on a couple items:
1.  New pots and pans
2.  New dining room table
3.  Barbecue

None of these things we actually expected to accomplish this year.  It will take the knockoff of a few bills, and a few review raises, before we get much disposable income back into our pockets. 

Well, into registers at least.

On Friday, we received an unexpected surprise in the mail.  A belated housewarming card from my Aunt Shirley and family, with a Target gift card inside.  Is there any currency more exciting out there?!  The possibilities that little smidge of plastic could produce.  We got in the car, almost immediately, and drove down to Target.  Past the video games, DVDs and camping equipment to seasonal garden.  I had my sights set on a little coffee-style table, something to set our theoretical dinner party wine glasses on.  We snagged a super-clearance special on a set of 6 beautiful lawn chairs (marked down to $75 from $450), so a surface is the real missing element.

"Hey honey," Matt called from several gazebos and oversized umbrellas away.  "What if we got a barbecue?"

What if?  What if our dream could be realized Summer 2010?  What if we could retire the hard-working, beloved Patio Caddy from grandma?  What if we could fit the vegetables and the meat all at the same time, with a burner for baked beans on the side?  It would transform our backyard from mere vegetation to preparation and beyond. 

"Can we?"  We ran some numbers.  Moved some things around.  Eh, the power company doesn't want their money THAT bad this week, right?

And so, the surly Target employee came out from the mysterious back room with a giant crate from China, holding our coveted... parts.

This was the part I misunderstood.  When I thought "buying a barbecue", I thought I'd be walking away ready to cook in minutes.  I didn't know I was buying a hopeless barrage of bolts, beams and braces that, when put together correctly, were supposed to resemble to picture outside of the box.  This is why, without a man in the picture, I would never be able to grill. 

After about 3 hours, a lot of kicking and cussing on my end and a lot of beers on Matt's end, the vision materialized.  It was time to start planning a menu. 

One of my favorite burgers to order from restaurants, and that my mom would make to spice up dinner, are teriyaki burgers.  Adding a good teriyaki sauce, garlic and a little ginger to the ground beef or turkey mixture, then grilling with a pineapple ring and mozzarella cheese. 

I can't have a burger without french fries.  It's just wrong.  But I don't always like using pre-packaged frozen fries, especially when I'm trying to decrease in mass.  You don't know how much oil is already in them, where they've been, and what you're working with.  The solution?  Make your own!

Peel and slice your favorite potatoes into wedges.  I used a sweet potato, but you can't tell because it wasn't orange.  Boo.  Toss with olive oil, minced garlic, salt, pepper and whatever fresh herbs you have laying around.  I've got basil and thyme going crazy on my kitchen windowsill, so that worked out perfectly.  Use a grill basket to brown and crisp them up.  I love my Pampered Chef grill basket.  No, I don't sell the stuff, but I do love it.  The last time I had a party though, the lady really stalked me over being a consultant.  I may love to cook, but I'm terrible at selling things.  I get very embarassed and scared I'm imposing, I don't "ask for the sale!!", I don't do follow-up calls to see if they've invited their neighbor's neighbors to bring a friend.  Thus my 3 month career with Avon ended with a stockpile of unread catalogs and makeup I'd just bought for myself. 

Cooking time depends on how thick you slice your potatoes, how hot your grill is, all those little things.  Just keep an eye on them, toss them around, poke them.  They'll let you know when they're hot and ready to go. 

Though the sun was fleeting in May's fickle northwest sky and rainclouds loomed just over the horizon, we grilled those asian-ified patties with all the relish of a genuine summer's eve.  The rediscovering of sunshine at 9:30 pm, magically ballooning tomatoes and cooking outside are a state of mind, not a season. 

Delicious dinner, drastic dish decrease, and lunch leftovers that brought me from my office (almost) right back to our very own patch of green lawn. 

Gotta love goals.

Meanwhile, Mehitable models the end result. 


  1. Oh that Mehitabel, professional food model and connoisseur as one might deduce from her ample waistline.

  2. She knows the nums. Also, she has that aloof, slightly vacant stare down to a science.

  3. Gas vs. charcoal: thoughts?

  4. That makes me think of Hank Hill's mantra, "taste the food, not the fuel!" Or was it "taste the meat, not the heat"? Either way, I tend to agree. I never had much luck with charcoal; it's messy, I could never get it hot enough, and my kabobs would just end up melting through the grates before they could cook. I like the ease of being able to just literally turn it on and cook.

    But there is that taste that you can't replicate when you use old-fashioned charcoal. I just can't do it right, apparently.

  5. I don't know how my dad does it. He really KNOWS charcoal, you know? I've never tried either, so I wanted your opinion.

    My dad got a fancy new grill last year, a step up from the old red kettle. It's charcoal, but it has a gas starter. I think that sounds like the best of both worlds.