Archive for the 'food' Category

My Early Valentine’s Day Present

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I WAS going to title this something like “My Husband Loves Me” or “My Husband Knows Me Well”, but after the HORRIBLE experience I had when I first started blogging, and innocently titled a post “Seducing My Sister”, which was about how I got her to join Second Life, I decided to play it safe. There are such … different … people out there. Anyway, my husband DOES love me and DOES know me well. A package came the other day, addressed to him. He brought it to me and told me that it was really for me, an early Valentine’s Day prezzie. Of course I had no intention of waiting until February 14th – he DID say EARLY present. 🙂 He has done this for me in the past – bought me designer chocolate. Apparently he has no problem spending crazy amounts of $$$ on chocolate for me. This time he bought me Amedei, two Toscano Black bars. Oh. Em. Gee. They are superlative. (Of course they are. I don’t think I’ve ever had ANYTHING from Tuscany that wasn’t fantastic.) Texture and taste are out of this world. I don’t know what else is in this, despite reading the ingredients, because there is a divine after-taste. That lingering after-taste makes me want to wolf down the entire bar right then and there. But you’ll be impressed to learn that I am very, very controlled about my Toscano Black chocolates. Only 2 squares at a time, and no more than 4 squares in a day, and ONLY if it was a very very very bad day that NEEDS 4 squares. 🙂 I am savoring this early Valentine’s Day present!

Flatbread for Dinner

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fresh homemade flatbread with homemade topping – YUM!

This weekend my husband announced on Saturday that he would be making flatbread for dinner on Sunday. I wasn’t really sure what that meant but I’ve learned over the years that if my husband is cooking, I’m enjoying (okay, there was that one time over 30 years ago when he made fried rice and none of us could feel the inside of our mouths for the next 2 weeks). I was given instructions to pick up fresh yeast (not dried yeast) and some more mushrooms. We had, according to the chef, sufficient plum tomatoes and onions and tahini and parmesan cheese. He likes to talk to me to tell me what he is going to concoct. I don’t always listen in detail because these conversations often occur when I am in the middle of doing something else. 🙂 I listen for the “do we have any” and the “can you pick up” phrases. I went about doing a zillion errands and chores on Sunday – dusted his office (no wonder why he is always coughing up there), cleaned the bathroom, did the laundry, grocery shopping, got books from the library, and emptied garbage cans. I figured after that day I was entitled to sit back and let someone else make dinner. It was, of course, totally delicious. Other than what I mentioned above, I have no idea how he made it or what was in it. But now it’s in us and our tummies are oh so very happy!

Cinnamon Scones Make Rainy Days Sunny

beating a rainy day with coffee and scones

beating a rainy day with coffee and scones

Yesterday was hard, very hard. I was soooo tired physically, afraid that I might be relapsing with this dratted PND syndrome. I wasn’t handling work stress well either, I’m sure because of the fatigue and fear. The day ended well, however, with my friend/coworker giving me a much desired and needed 90-minute coaching session while he drove home (a 5.5 hour trip for him). My husband heated up the leftover game hens for dinner, and I had a glass of wine. We watched the next Mrs. Maisel episode (we’re in Season 3, but we only watch one or two episodes a week). I was in bed by 10:30 pm and had no trouble falling asleep.

cinnamon scones before shaping

i love how easy it is to shape scones – just pat a circle and cut

This morning the cats gave me a present and let me sleep until 9:00 am. Not a single meow or mrrrrp or head butt. It was delightful not to be nudged. 🙂 I had great plans for today. Well, great is a matter of interpretation. I PLANNED to get a lot of cleaning done. Next week is our big Super Bowl party and I have GOT to get started on cleaning that has been ignored for far too long.

cinnamon scones with raw sugar sprinkled on top

you can see the raw sugar sprinkled on top – a little sweet for us, so I’ll probably leave off the topping next time

Unfortunately I seem to be a child of the weather. It was pouring rain. It was gray. It was VERY difficult to motivate myself to start cleaning. At moments like these, playing cards on the computer seems to be the best way to spend my time. As I lost game after game of solitaire (my way of both zoning out and waking up) I thought about what I might want to eat for breakfast or brunch. I decided I was in the mood for a scone. I thought at first cranberry scones, but when I read the recipe I decided it required too much effort. I’m not sure what about it was too much effort, but I guess it just didn’t sound good enough today for any effort. 🙂

baked cinnamon scones

baked cinnamon scones ended up being brunch – very filling!

I have a very simple cheese scone recipe and I make it often, without the cheese, just throwing in cinnamon. I decided to look for an actual cinnamon scone recipe and found one that seemed perfect: Cinnamon Scones (with cinnamon chips) on the JoyFoodSunshine.com website. I mean – the website name alone was cheerful. They were easy, quick and totally scrumptious when they were done. I brought one to my husband as he was reading the paper. When I wandered through the kitchen a short while after that, I noticed that another scone seemed to have vanished. *grin* He confirmed that they were fantastic scones and he’d gotten himself another. 🙂 Now THAT’S the way to wake up and get motivated!

bc under the snack tables

sweet BC allowed me to sleep in this morning so she gets her picture on the post

Cooking Beats The Blues

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Yesterday was NOT a good day. There are some ‘things’ that are making me less than happy at work. I expect those to clear up, but in the meantime I’m not enjoying the state of things. I can tell that I really am fully healthy again because I have the energy to be grumpy. I’m aware of all the things that NEED TO GET DONE and all the things about myself that are not satisfactory. Gee, almost makes me wonder if being sick DOES have an upside. 🙂 I know – be VERY careful what you wish for.

To top it off I went out at lunch to try to find paint for several of the rooms in the house that still need finishing after taking apart the house for the new electrical wiring in the renovated kitchen. The paint is annoying for a few reasons. First, I can’t believe it’s been over a year and I still haven’t done anything about it. Well, that’s not fair. I DID engage someone to do the painting but he never got to it before I had to tell him to cancel the request. But I HAD picked out paint colors. I thought I’d run over to the big box stores and see if I could pick up the paint myself. Maybe my husband and I would be inspired and tackle one of the walls. I cannot find the colors I selected off of the contractor’s color wheel. I remember the numbers and some of the names. They were NOT at the first big box store I checked. I grabbed a multitude of color samples but none of them look right. I went to the other big box store yesterday to see their colors. While I was standing there the screen over the lights fell on my face. Yes, that is correct – on my face, cutting my nose and hitting my lip as well. I was very taken aback. It is indicative of my mood at that point that I wanted to cry. 😦 When I went to Customer Support to get the cut cleaned and bandaged and some ice for what felt like it might be a swelling lip, they were completely nonplussed. It was if no one had EVER been injured in that store before nor had they personally ever seen a bleeding cut. Really????? Anyway, the woman got me a wipe from the entry way (the kind you use to sanitize your shopping cart handle) and the man ultimately found me some ice, which he delivered in a napkin. And HE was the manager. Honestly, what passes for training these days? You can see why THAT errand left me grumpy and frustrated.

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carrots & onion

I came home early, resolved to bake or cook or something to beat the blues. I was expecting my husband home around 5:30. I knew he had an appointment far away and almost called him around 5:00 to ask where he was so I could judge arrival time. Imagine my surprise when he called a little after 5 to tell me he had only just left and wouldn’t be home until maybe 7:30. Ouch. That’s a bit late for me to eat. 😦 Good thing I had NOT called when I thought of it, as he would have still been in the meeting.

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carrots, onions, lentils, thyme, bay leaf, red pepper, tomato paste, salt, pepper

I poured myself a glass of wine and sat down to read and think. That all led to me feeling more relaxed and positive about cooking. I decided to try a lentil recipe that I’d found months ago when I was looking for dishes to serve for Sukkot. I wanted something with flavor and texture but uncomplicated because I wasn’t in a mood to fuss. I went with the Pasta e Lenticche recipe. I liked that it cooked in one pot. I hate doing dishes. *grin* I had nearly all the ingredients. I only had green lentils, not brown lentils (note to self: buy brown lentils) and I didn’t have the suggested pasta – I had rotelle, not any tubular pasta, and only dried bay leaf, not fresh. But I did have fresh thyme because that is one of my porch pots that is still producing. 🙂

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water added per the recipe; ended up adding probably another 2-3 cups because of using green lentils

The dish was very easy to make and very tasty. I had to add much more liquid due to the use of green lentils, but it was easy to judge how much to add. The use of rotelle seemed not to make a difference. I had to add salt to my dish but that is always the case as my husband watches his salt intake. Just as I finished the dish and began to move it to the smallest burner to keep it hot, my husband came through the door. Perfect timing! I’d even had time to put together a fresh salad. Delicious dinner, recipe well worth keeping and repeating, and I was no longer so grumpy. Food, wine and thinking creative thoughts beat the blues yet again!

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pasta e lentichhie all ready!

Life in the Office Kitchen

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Neat and orderly with SUCH a variety of choice!

We have a small kitchen in our office. Maybe it’s not that small, but I’m comparing it to the one in my former office, which also had tables and a lot more counter space. We have a snack vending machine, a drink vending machine, a refrigerator, 2 microwaves, a Keurig coffee maker, a sink, and a water cooler. I think that is a fairly respectable work kitchen. The big issue is over the Keurig coffee maker. Let me take that back. For ME, the big issue is that so many people are (1) slobs, (2) can’t follow directions and (3) are selfish. Three issues. (“Our chief weapon is surprise…surprise and fear…“) Our company does NOT provide coffee for us (do NOT go there) so I like to surprise my office mates by bringing in coffee, cream and pastries on occasion. Usually on a Monday, or on a day when the weather is awful. If I’ve done the grocery shopping that weekend and thought ahead I’ve tossed in “office goodies”. Often I stop on my way to work to pick up something for snacks or lunch and that’s most often when I’ll also treat the office. I did so on January 6, the unofficial “everyone back to work after the holidays” Monday.

We have what is known as a mobile office. That means that many workers are allocated to this office but they are mobile workers, going out on sales and/or service calls, or visits to client sites. So they don’t have assigned desks and there are always people coming and going. There were 2 people in the office that day that I’d not seen before. I filled up the K-cup dispenser with coffee, and put out a box of non-refrigerated cream pods. I noticed one of these ‘new’ people taking more than just one K-cup. Because I was standing there and watching, she walked out without taking the extras. I’ve seen this before. I’ll fill the dispenser, I’ll notice how many are there, go by a few minutes later and see that it has been depleted. I believe this is due to people “hoarding” the coffee. There aren’t used K-cups in the garbage and there wasn’t an influx of people so if several K-cups “vanish” in the matter of minutes, it means someone walked off with them for their own personal supply. I’m sure they think it’s no big deal – the company will put out more. But it IS a big deal because there ISN’T any more and they are depriving their coworkers of the enjoyment of a free cup of tasty coffee. It infuriates me. Well, that Monday seeing that ‘new’ person lining up an extra K-cup (and using THREE dairy pods in her coffee – that is NOT coffee, sweetie, that’s milk with some flavoring), I lost my temper a little bit. I made a sign and put it out on the counter explaining that it was a coworker supplying the goodies, and the other coworkers being deprived by people hoarding. Two weeks before someone had walked off with a completely full jar of honey that had been supplied by another coworker. Once my note was out another person wrote that one and half full bundles of paper towels had disappeared from the cabinets, as well as most of the paper in the printer. We are past hoarding here, and into STEALING. It’s disgusting.

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Offending K-cups hidden in the BACK of the drawer.

Some of us treat our coworkers from the goodness of our hearts (that would be me *grin*) and some of us treat our coworkers because of dietary preferences. One of my friends here keeps kosher. Yesterday 4 Swiss Miss hot cocoa K-cups appeared in the dispenser. Swiss Miss cocoa is NOT kosher. That means if someone uses a Swiss Miss K-cup in the machine, my friend will need to re-kasher the Keurig so that he can make coffee and tea. *grin* (It’s not that hard to re-kasher but it is annoying and if that’s what he needs to do to feel comfortable, it’s his effort). This morning he came in with tea k-cups and coffee k-cups and filled up the dispenser with those (I’d already added my 6 coffee K-cups). He hid the offending hot cocoa pods in the back of the drawer. *grin* I said to him that people might still be using non-kosher pods and he sighed, shrugged and said yes, but I think people tend to use whatever is in front of them. *laughing* So true!!! So we had a full dispenser of interesting beverages. We also had cream because *I* got tired of people stealing my half-and-half from the refrigerator, and tired of them hoarding the little pods, and I brought in a large container of the powdered non-dairy creamer. I also am the person responsible for straightening out the different sugar substitutes. *laughing* It was making me crazy to see everything all mixed up and messy. I started aligning sugars back in the fall. Someone had left a lot of hot cocoa mix packages on the counter so I found a way to make them neat as well. (Too bad this obsession with order and cleanliness does NOT extend to my house.) It’s now 1pm and it appears that no one is hoarding today, and the caramel vanilla coffee my friend brought in has been a big hit! (I have to say – it smells wonderful.) Peace reigns in the kitchen, at least today.

Venn-Diagram Menu Planning

Venn Diagram Menu Planning
 

OR: The Dinner Party That Wasn’t

Once upon a time, there was a world where everyone could eat everything and anything, and menu planning was simple. Times changes, people aged, digestive systems changed and one day we woke up to the fact that whereas we picked our food from Column A, they picked their food from Column B. Some preferences were due to life-threatening allergies, some due to digestive issues, but no matter the source, we all had very specific dietary preferences and needs.

I’ve mentioned our ‘gang of 8’ on this blog before – 4 couples who have been getting together for decades (more than one decade lets me use that phrase). We started with only 2 food requirements: vegetarians and no nuts. Then we added kosher/kosher-style. Then we started with planning for diabetes and high-blood pressure (no salt). Add in gluten-free, low-carbohydrate and I think we’ve got all of the requirements. To date none of us have needed to avoid nightshades but that would not surprise me in the least should it need factoring in. Just for fun, 4 of the people do not drink alcoholic beverages at all.

Couple A are meat eaters, but avoid gluten and carbohydrates. That tosses side dishes like pasta & rice, bread, and potatoes but it also tosses many high-carbohydrate vegetables. Couple B are vegetarians (NOT Vegan, thank goodness). They like carbohydrates and gluten. 🙂 Couple C have the severe nut allergy – puts her in the hospital. He can’t eat nut products either because should he kiss her with nut residue, off to the hospital we go. Couple D prefers kosher style and needs sugar-free desserts. What is a hostess to serve so that everyone feels like they have a variety of options and no one feels deprived???

I love to bake. I wanted to bake French bread and make desserts for my dinner party. I’m not all that big on potatoes but my husband loves them. I thought I’d bake gluten-free bread, but apparently gluten-free flour is still too high in carbs for Couple A. They WILL eat products with almond flour or coconut flour but see footnotes on couple C. Anything I baked would either kill Couple A or Couple C. *grin* I finally decided that I would bake with gluten, and Couple A would have their gluten-free cheesecake for dessert (which of course Couple C could not touch because the crust would be made with almond flour). Here is the final menu – I get to bake, my husband gets to cook, food for everyone and no one should be going hungry.

Appetizers:
cheese board with crackers and vegetables.

Dinner:
home-baked gluten-full French bread
roasted brussel sprouts
steamed cabbage/broccoli/cauliflower
spring salad
potatoes au gratin (which does NOT mean in cheese)
Cornish game hens

Dessert:
gluten-free cheese cake
apple-cranberry tart (sugar free)
sugar free brownies

It should have worked. It would have been a great dinner. Too bad I was too ill to make it happen. And as I am still too congested today, and now my husband has congestion and is coughing, we cancelled the make-up date too.  See everyone for the Superbowl party in 3 weeks!

Not Quite the Holiday I Envisioned

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Yes, I have bins full of paper goods for all occasions

Good thing for me that I follow the Jewish calendar and the New Year starts on Rosh Hashanah, which happened back in September. Although there were some bumps in the road then, too, I got to spend a wonderful holiday in Arizona with my son, welcoming the new year. I have a zillion photos that I’ve been meaning to share with you about that, sometime. 🙂 But even if Rosh Hashanah is “my” new year, I love to party with the rest of the world when the calendar switches from December 31 to January 1. Of course by now you should know that I just love to party. 🙂

The first decision is always HOW to party – throw a party, go to a party, quiet party, loud party. You might remember that last year was my party-to-end-all-parties – the unveiling of The New Kitchen!! That party took at least 4 blog posts to describe. *grin* This year I decided that I was a bit worn out and wanted a quieter celebration. We decided to go back to our traditional NYE party – a group of friends over for dinner. We have a group of friends that I call “the gang of 8” – us and 3 other couples. Sometimes it’s the gang of 9 when my son joins us, sometimes it’s the gang of 10 when my sister and her husband join us, but for many, many years I have used the shorthand of ‘gang of 8’ to describe us (as in over 20 years, I believe, maybe getting close to 25 years). Anyway, we opted for dinner for the gang of 10.

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I seem to remember much smaller hens – do they shrink in cooking?

Originally I thought that we’d make the 18 pound turkey we have in the downstairs freezer. Of the possible 10 eaters, 2 are vegetarians. That’s a lot of turkey for 8 people when you figure there will be side dishes as well. Then I was reading Jinjer’s blog and saw she was making Cornish Game Hens. Wow!! I haven’t thought about those in YEARS! There was a time when they were the ‘in’ food and EVEN MY MOTHER cooked them (my mother never cooked if at all possible). *smile* I thought that individual game hens was MUCH better than 18 pounds of turkey. My husband found frozen game hens at the local grocery store and a decision was made.

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NOT the usual counter displays I share with you 😦

I have to tell you that planning dinner for the gang of 8 is a challenge. There was a time when we were all much younger when we had fewer food issues. Now – well now I almost think the challenge of preparing a menu and dishes is almost as much fun as getting to spend time with my friends. *grin* But that is definitely another post. Anyway, I had a great menu planned. Then I woke up on the morning of December 21 with congestion and a fever. Okay, I can deal with this: liquids, more liquids and rest. Except I kept getting worse. I was working that week (or at least nominally working) and was hard pressed to concentrate on the monitor. Definitely a fever. Definitely a hacking cough. Definitely SICK. All week. I was sleeping in a chair for 3 days until I threw my back out. So even though I felt better Thursday, I couldn’t move from the pain. We had a major party to attend on Saturday evening. I spent Thursday and Friday horizontal on ice packs. Saturday came. Yay for decongestants, cough drops, Advil and nose spray. We made it to the party and back again. I even managed Sunday morning to do all the grocery shopping for NYE dinner. And of course I picked up a treat for the kitties (obligatory photos included). Made it to my sister’s and brother-in-law’s for a phenomenal Sunday dinner of standing rib roast and the most amazing potatoes ever and heavenly salt stick rolls.

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How DO you take good photos of black cats?????

Woke up Monday morning realizing that I was NOT healthy and NOT feeling like there was anyway I could throw a party the next night, no matter how relaxed. When I saw my husband taking the hens out to defrost I told him to put them back. Monday night I sent out an email and rescheduled our dinner to Saturday, January 4. I was in bed (in the chair again) on NYE by 10 pm, with decongestants, nose spray, cough drops, tissues, advil. The ball dropped at Times Square without my help. 🙂 Last night, January 1, my husband said “I’m going to take a dip (in our hot tub) because I’m feeling a little congested.” Oh no!!!!!!! It was inevitable but still horrible – now he is sick. I know several people who have gotten this chest congestion and coughing and misery. It seems to last FOREVER. With any luck my husband will shake it off faster than I did, okay, I still haven’t. In my head I figure Saturday night dinner is not happening.

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Sigh. A lot of this dinner party food is perishable. And this is only the downstairs refrigerator.

This is not the best way to start a new year. On the other hand, maybe if we get all the germs out of the way NOW, the rest of the year will be healthy. One can only hope!

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Better slightly blurry cat pictures than photos of waste baskets full of tissues!


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