Archive for the 'food' Category

Nature’s Sense of Humor

This, my friends, is a carrot on a red paper plate. It was one of the baby carrots in my snack pack the other day. It may have been every bit as edible as all the other carrots in the pack, but somehow I could not bring myself to take a bite. Would you? 🙂

La La La La La

tall canna lily front garden

Isn’t that what you say when you cover your ears so you can’t hear what someone is saying to you? La la la la la la la. I do NOT have the energy today to deal with macro issues: return to school? presidential election? senatorial elections? college football? eating out? La la la la la la.

1st mushroom sighting

The first sighting of the mushrooms. They look harmless, don’t they?

Unfortunately for me, my little micro concerns were also difficult this week. Sigh. So no cat pictures today – still a little bit too sad about GC for that. Which leaves me only the garden and yard for an escape. Oh – and food. There is always food, right?

crustless quiche

crustless vegetable quiche

Let’s do food first. My husband has been cooking. His new obsession is making pot stickers from scratch. I can assure that yes, you CAN get bored with eating pot stickers. The last two times he suggested it I vetoed the idea. That got me homemade pasta with sauce (oh yum yum yum) and a delicious flatbread pizza. I also got a crustless quiche. You can tell from the photo that he LOVES cooking tomatoes. I’m not as fond of cooked tomatoes as he is but at the moment they are still preferred over yet more pot stickers. The night he made the pasta he made a tandori sauce to go on it. Out of this world delicious. Remember Snuffles, the treat loving dog from Quick Draw McGraw? That describes the 4 of us having dinner. My brother-in-law is usually the bread baker, as I’ve told you. His breads are beyond compare. He was busy all day, however, so baking the challah fell to me. It was good, but it convinced me to get myself a bread thermometer. I worried about it being under-baked so I gave it more time than I thought it probably needed. I’d rather have it that way, even though over-baking means leftovers dry out faster.

Ahuva's challah

That is a 5-strand braided challah. Haven’t done one in years and so my strands were not as evenly thick at the end of the braiding.

The local news reported today that July was the hottest month on record for New Jersey. As everyone commented – tell us something we DIDN’T know. When I was a young lass, maybe all the way up to my 30s, NJ summers were my favorite weather. Hazy hot & humid did not faze me. Now that I am older, I have more empathy for those who complain about NJ summers. The humidity wipes me out. I learned in Arizona that temperatures above 100 are probably more heat than I enjoy, but I can go up into the 90s and have no problem if it is dry. I finally understand the phrase “it’s not the heat it’s the humidity”. Yes, it’s the humidity. And the dratted no-see-ums that are eating me alive every time I water the plants. My legs are covered with scratched bites and scabs. My legs look like the legs of a grade schooler (if there were still such a thing as grade school – oh wait – do NOT go there). My wonderful husband heard me moaning every night after watering the plants and bought me mosquito netting pants!!!! They do work! The problem, I think, for me is that I sweat so heavily from the humidity, that it is still attracting them through the pants. The number of bites is greatly reduced but I still got bitten the other night. I think I’ll try spraying the pants with insect repellent and see if that makes any difference. I could try to get up early when there are fewer bugs about but mostly I get up that early to make sandwiches.

mosquito netting pants

You may laugh but everyone who has seen them or heard me talk about them has asked where they can get them (search on mosquito netting pants)

I came home from making sandwiches yesterday and went to pull into my driveway. And I stopped. There was a man from the utility company walking out of my driveway and 5 orange cones IN my driveway. I rolled down my window and looked at him, and asked “What are you doing?” He explained that he had cleared it with the man in the house (*grin* I said – my husband, he said – I didn’t want to presume, I said – wise approach these days). The apron of the driveway was damaged when we got the new gas and electric to the house back in February or whenever it was. They are finally getting around to repairing it. He said we couldn’t drive on it for 3 or 4 days. That means no convertible – it is in the garage. Too bad, because the temperatures are only supposed to be in the 80s for the rest of this week. Of course, the humidity is also supposed to be in the 80s. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
driveway before and after

Last year I mentioned that I should plant lots and lots of canna lilies because the butterflies seemed to really enjoy them. I have only seen 2 butterflies this year so far. I showed you the monarch butterfly on the butterfly weed. There has also been a black swallowtail I’ve seen periodically. The swallowtail seems to check out everything but the things I planted specifically to make butterflies happy. It seems to really like the echinacea. I saw it today checking out the herbs, tomatoes and superbells, but it flitted away before landing anywhere. Camera-shy I guess.

black swallowtail butterfly on echinacea

Black swallowtail butterfly

I planted 2 gardenias this year – one in a hanging pot and one in a pot along the front walk. I believe that the one in the hanging pot was burned out by the hot weather, after managing to produce 2 flowers in the late spring. The one along the walk has produced one full bloom. It does smell heavenly.

gardenia

Gardenia

Not only has it been humid, we’ve gotten a lot of rain. The fun part is when it rains in the evening so I don’t have to brave the no-see-ums and can skip watering the plants. Apparently it has been even wetter than I realized. This week my neighbor’s lawn has sprouted mushrooms. Every day they have gotten larger and larger. There must be a good story to write there but at the moment I only have the illustrations. 🙂 If they get much larger they are going to cross the line from impressive to creepy.

mushrooms day 2

okay, a little wider, but still not too creepy

Then of course there are the canna lilies. The “rescued” cannas have been thriving in the pots along the walk. FINALLY one of the ones I planted has begun to bloom. I get very impatient in the spring. Even knowing things will grow, I don’t want a lot of empty space that needs weeding and looks neglected. I cram way too many plants into one area. I have this gorgeous stupendously tall canna right smack in the middle of the lawn garden. Beautiful. BUT – crammed in that spot are 2 Rose Mallows, perennials that are in the hibiscus family. One of them was doing quite well before the canna began shooting up. The other is nestled under a canna leaf. When I can brave the biting-bug-filled lawn to go there, I rearrange it to be in front of the leaf. But somehow it always resets to under and behind. I hope it is sufficiently rooted to survive.

Mushrooms day 3

There are actually 5 of these things in the yard. These 2 are about 6 inches across at a minimum.

I like so many flowers, and I’ve now got so many perennials. I want MORE rudbeckia laciniata hortensia, but I’m not sure where I can put them. I will have to pull out the firecrackers or chop down the variegated grass. Or pull out the rudbeckia laciniata (single bloom rudbeckia). That might work, except I also have the goose neck flowers there and I added the swamp milkweed as well. Sigh. Maybe I should put a border garden along the walk? That gets lots of sun.

rudbeckia after the rain

Rudbeckia laciniata hortensia after the rain. do you see the HUGE mushrooms?

Whatever it is that snuck into my planters now has flowers. I can’t wait to see what I’m growing. I thought that purple-edged leaf vine was a sweet pea vine – that’s what I was calling it in my head. But it’s not, according to my search. According to my search I have no idea what it is, other than beautiful. I also have no idea what to tell the lad who cuts my grass. I’m tired of moving pots and putting them back. I think I’ll tell him to just ignore the grass under the vines. *laughing* There isn’t really any grass, is there? My lawn is really nothing but weeds. 🙂
vines in the grass

tall canna lily and rose mallow

Rose mallow, canna lilies and dahlias

I Grew A Salad

romaine lettuce before picking

Ready to harvest

My romaine lettuce did GREAT!!!! It was large enough and healthy enough that I could make a salad without having to add lettuce from the store. 🙂 I had 3 radishes that COULD have gone into the salad but we ate them. 🙂 I have a lot to learn still about growing vegetables. I crowd them, and mix mismatched sun-types in the same pot. It’s very encouraging, however, when I actually get it right and end up with viable produce! The lettuce appeared to be very happy in a pot of its own, hanging off the porch railing. I’ll plant another!

radishes and lettuce fresh from the garden

My harvest!

The celery isn’t quite ready but you can see that it IS looking very celery. The fun thing about celery is that it grows above ground so I can track the progress. With my radishes I sort of poke around in the dirt if they are not showing through. And yes – I do see that little weed in there that needs to be pulled

it's almost celery

Almost ‘real’ celery

I’ll need to grow more lettuce so that I can make another salad, this time with the grape tomatoes!

grape tomatoes on the vine

grape tomatoes on the vine

RADISHES!!!!!

2 radishes

Radishes!

I have radishes!!!!! I grew them from seed!!!! REAL RADISHES!!!! 🙂 They even tasted good. I am soooooo impatient and that made me do a very dumb thing. The first radishes I tried to grow I had in the same container as the cilantro. I knew the minute I finished seeding that it had been a mistake. Radishes need sun and my experience with cilantro is that it wants very little sun. My radishes had been growing for WEEKS. I figured there MUST be a radish down there somewhere. I pulled one up.

first radish

The First Radish

It was the saddest excuse for a radish you’ve ever seen. Yes, there was something radish-red at the end of the leaves, but it was as skinny as a root. It was maybe a half an inch long and probably not even 1/4 of an inch in diameter. In disappointment and despair I pulled the 5 of them up and tossed them. I could see that the ones growing out there in the sun were doing much better. I think that had I just left those 5 little ones alone for awhile (or killed the cilantro and not the radishes), they’d have grown up. I got another empty container, filled it with soil and seed starter, and planted MORE RADISHES!!
Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt, That’s why I love vegetables, you know what you’re about!

Radish leaves and onions

Look at those radish leaves!!! (the other cups have onions – i know – a mistake to have them there)

I was, I am, Naive

Spur of the moment berry pie

Spur of the moment berry pie – yes, I cheated on the lattice because I didn’t have much crust available and I was lazy

Silly me. I thought we were actually moving forward. I thought that living here, I was free from the fear of being burned in ovens, free from the fear of being killed for expressing my religious beliefs. I thought that we were finally moving past the racial hatred. We’d elected a black president – didn’t that show that the majority of us were finally not letting skin color determine what people could or couldn’t do? I thought that all of the anthems of the 60s had grown into our psyches, that we wanted peaceful coexistence. Well, I was wrong, wasn’t I? I am in agony watching my country self-destruct, crash and burn. What’s covid19 compared to what we can do on our own? I escape where and when I can. Because human beings need to find hope, need to find life, need to find the positive no matter how dark the sky. So I cook and bake and garden.

snowing cherry blossoms

Snowing Cherry Blossoms in April

Ahhh, my garden. I relieve my stress in my garden. The weather wasn’t being very kind. We had such a mild winter, and an easy April, that I was lulled into believing I could plant seeds and get things in the ground before May 15, the “official” last frost date. Son-of-a-gun if we weren’t having frost warnings on May 13th or whenever it was. Seriously???? I had to cover my tropicals, tarp the plants in pots, tarp whatever I could cover. Even so, the cover blew off one of my mandevillas. It is only just now beginning to recover. I’ve been spraying the roses and clematis with Neem oil, because the roses have black spot and they are interwoven with the clematis. I’ve been spraying the walk and the pots with that disgusting “repel all” to keep the deer and squirrels away. OMG, that stuff is vile. It had better repel those dratted squirrels because it certainly repels ME. Ugh. I was so proud of my radishes and then discovered the dratted squirrels digging in that pot. I don’t know how I’ll know when my radishes are ready for eating. I have lovely green leaves above, but when do they indicate lovely red radishes below??? I need to do more reading.

our local 'gang' of 4

The local Gang of 4 and I exchanging stares

I’ve been cooking and baking. You know how I love the 90-minute French bread recipe? I think I found one I love even more. The 40-minute hamburger roll recipe. I found this just about 2 weeks ago. The first time I made hot dog rolls. SO GOOD!!!! Yesterday I just casually whipped up a batch of hamburger rolls. We ended up having sandwiches for dinner instead of salad. You absolutely MUST try this recipe – fantastically easy and wonderfully delicious!!!

40 minute hamburger rolls

40 minute hamburger rolls – so easy and SO GOOD!!!!

I’ve also made wheat berry salad and cold sesame noodles, a berry pie, and a chocolate chip loaf cake. The loaf cake was a new recipe for me. I needed to make a quick, easy dessert for dinner, plus I needed to make it sugar-free. I’d made one several weeks ago but, as many people noted in the comments, my chips all sank to the bottom of the pan/cake. This new recipe is so rich and moist that the chips do NOT sink. Definitely a keeper/repeater recipe. I need to tinker a little bit more with the sweetness because I use Allulose instead of sugar, and add in a very generous tablespoon of Truvia as well. I thought there were almost too many chips (I used sugar-free chips) but when I said that my sister looked at me as if I was crazy :). One night my husband made an incredible Chinese food meal – home made wontons. So good!

homemade chicken wontons

homemade chicken wontons (not shown – the chicken fried rice and the beef and broccoli)

The garden is starting to bloom, and I did massive weeding this past weekend. Many of my perennials ARE returning and I added more this year as well. I’ll try to focus on the garden, and not share my darker thoughts with you. Working in the garden IS how I deal with stress, so trust me when I say that I’ve been super-vigilant – even dead-heading flowers and digging out the weeds from the cracks in the sidewalk. 🙂 Soon there should even be flowers to share.

cold sesame noodle

cold sesame noodle

40 minute hot dog rolls

40 minute hot dog rolls – look how well they came out even though this was the first time I tried this recipe

The Gang of 4 in action

The Gang of 4 in action

A Family of Food

Oreo Cheesecake Bar

Oreo Cheesecake Bar pre-cutting

My husband loves to cook. He loves watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks, and creating marvelous yummy entrees. I like to cook MUCH more now than I did prior to renovating the kitchen (it’s so EASY and fun to cook in the new kitchen) but I consider myself more of a baker than a cook. Naturally our son both cooks and bakes. He will often send me photos of his meal or of some treat he’s baked. His specialty seems to be baking for his coworkers. I think it began innocently enough. A good friend there had a birthday. This friend apparently loved the movie (Mean Girls) from whence we get “On Wednesday we wear pink!”. My son baked a birthday sheet cake and frosted it with pink icing. His coworkers devoured it. I think the next birthday was someone who likes bread, so my son baked a gorgeous challah. Also devoured. His office has pot luck meals at holiday times so my son has brought in potato latkes (devoured) and challah (devoured). I know he’s brought cookies and biscuits as well. Hope they all have memberships at a gym. This week’s office birthday treat was Oreo Cheesecake bars. They were apparently a big hit – devoured. 🙂 Now if I can only teach my son to take food photos as great as his baking!

oreo cheesecake

Yes it IS blurry but it still looks yummy!

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!


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