Today's recipe comes from the delicious cookbook, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy: A Feast of 175 Regional Recipes, by the always delicious-making Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and her daughter, Tanya Bastianich Manuali. I love watching Lidia cook on her tv shows. Everything she makes -- and I mean everything, even if it's eye of newt -- looks soooo incredibly good. She's so enthusiastic and descriptive and warm and inviting. Kevin loves Italian food and good food of any sort; Lidia's shows nearly reduce him to drooling. I tease Kevin that if I die or we split up, he won't go for a trophy wife, he'll weasel his way into marrying Lidia (she's 60+ years old)...for her food. Lidia's mother, Erminia, who must be in her 80s, knows her way around a garden and a kitchen; she may not be safe, either.
Annnnyway, in the preface to this recipe, Lidia mentions how she most often sees celery used in stocks or salads. Too true. And I don't know what else to do with it. This recipe came in especially handy when a large head of celery came in our oganic produce bag. Sure, we could put it in salads and cut it up for snack sticks. Whatever didn't get used and got wilty, plus the ends, would go in the freezer for stock. With the organic stuff, I've taken to looking up recipes to either a) try something different or b) figure out what to do with some new thing that came in the bag. That's how I came across this recipe, by trying to find something else to do with celery.
This is actually called Celery Steamed in a skillet in the cookbook, but for some reason I keep calling it Braised Celery so that's what I call it here. Lidia recommends you use "a heavy saucepan, such as an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, 10" wide with a 3- to 4-quart capacity, with a cover". This gave Kevin yet another opportunity to use his (non-enameled) cast iron Dutch oven.
2.5 lbs. celery (1 lg. or 2 med. heads)
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled (Kevin probably put in more)
2 med. onions, thinly sliced
1 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. peperoncino flakes, or to taste (I think Kevin put in a few too many; it was a little zesty; we'd test it first next time)
1/2 c. pitted black olives
3 T. tomato paste
2 c. hot water
Prepare the celery: Separate the stalks. Wash and trim the stalks. Shave tough outer ribs with a vegetable peeler or paring knife, removing thick skin and strings. Cut stalks crosswise, including leafy parts, into 4" pieces (or smaller, if you prefer).
Pour the olive oil into the sauce pan, set it over medium heat, stire in the garlic and onions, and heat until sizzling.
Heap celery in the pan, sprinkle over it the salt and peperoncino, stire and toss, coating the celery with oil. Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, as the celery starts cookings.
Stire in the olives, turn up the heat a bit, and sute the veggies about 15 minutes, tossing and stirring now and then, until the celery and onions are softened and caramelized on the edges.
Meanwhile, stir and blend the tomato paste in the 2c. of hot water to make a braising liquid. When the celery is lightly browned, pour in the tomato water and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and adjust the heat to maintain a steady, gentle perking. Cook about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until celery is completely tender and caramelized and the liquid reduced to a glaze.
Serve right away as a side dish or let it cool to room temperature. Leftover celery will keep in the fridge for a few days and freezes well.
I didn't try freezing it, although I will next time so I can see for myself how it freezes. I am definitely looking forward to getting more celery in our produce. Seeing as I work at the library, I've been using the library's copy of this book, but I might have to buy a copy for myself. I have purchased at least one copy as a gift for someone else; maybe I'll purchase another copy as a gift for me.
We recently spent a gloriously restful week in Aruba. We'd never been there before. Turns out that stray cats are a common sight around the hotels/resorts. We met three friendly cats around the place where we stayed; two were exceptionally friendly. One was this cat; we guessed her to be a young female:
We saw her a couple of times and then didn't see her for a few days until the evening before we were to leave. We were eating at the resort's outdoor restaurant, our table near a hedge. She came sauntering through the hedge and enjoyed some bits of our meal. Then she jumped up on my lap and settled in for the duration of the meal.
We brought her back to the room and called Aruba Kitten Rescue (AKR; I had emailed them and another organization earlier in the week when I learned about the stray cat problem and wanted to know what, if anything, tourists could do to make these cats' lives easier). We discussed this cat and decided that they would call the vet early the next morning to see if they could give her a rabies shot, do an exam and provide travelling papers. AKR came to us early the next morning, whisked her to the vet, whisked her back, provided an airline approved carrier so she could sit under the seat in front of us; a harness and leash for walking her through the metal detector (she walked on a leash like a champ; thoroughly unflummoxed by all the people pointing and saying, 'There's a cat!') and wished us a safe trip. You can read AKR's post about her here.
If you go to the website you'll see this post, where they talk about the supplies they need. Basically, the stuff they need -- small harnesses and leashes; soft carriers; KMR -- is very expensive down there. And it's expensive to ship stuff to them from outside of Aruba. So they depend on people travelling to Aruba who are kind enough to bring stuff with them. So if you're planning to go to Aruba and would like to help, contact them first to find out what their current needs are and how to best get the stuff to them once you're in Aruba.
I had ordered some tapas for dinner while she was sitting on my lap that night and one was called 'pinchitos'. The waiter said it meant 'little bits' (they were mini skewers with one or two small pieces of meat on them) and, since she's a little bit of a thing, I started calling her Pinchita and the name stuck.
The Aruban vet estimated her to be 5-6 months old and they didn't feel any kittens inside her, but, if she was pregnant, she probably wasn't very far along. Our vet came to see her a few days ago and left a note (at this point in our relationship with her, she just lets herself in and out) saying that Pinchita is not a kitten and that she might be pregnant. Turns out she also has worms -- lots of them and quite the variety. The vet gave her a first dose of dewormer when she was here, but now that she has the results of the fecal exam, she's going to give Pinchita a stronger dewormer next week when she comes by to see Dolly. We've also seen one flea so far, so she's getting treated for that, too.
She's a tiny little thing: 4.75 lb. How is she supposed to have kittens? I hope she's not pregnant, but I guess we'll just deal with that if and when it's confirmed. I wonder if/how her dewormer and flea medication might affect her kittens/pregnancy. We've never had brand spanking new kittens in the house before; I don't know that we're prepared for this. I don't know nothin' 'bout birthing kittens.
Miles had a very exciting day recently. I work one Saturday a month and it was just such a Saturday. Working also was Rich, who's always suggesting I bring Miles in to work (bc he's the easiest going of the bunch). Kevin dropped me off for work and he brought Miles in his stroller when he came to pick me up at the end of the day.
Then, after we got home, Kevin put a harness and lead on Miles and secured him to a stake in the backyard. Right by the post that holds two birdfeeders.
More proof that my interest in thrift is more academic than practical: I recently purchased a Foodsaver, a vacuum sealer that's supposed to allow you to keep foods fresher longer, either in the fridge or the freezer or, I guess, on the counter as well. I had been thinking about getting one for a good long time. Over several years probably, I'd think once in a while about getting one of these. But I was unsure bc a) I'd read some negative reviews on the internet (and I didn't know how heavily to weight them bc I think people are more likely to go to the trouble to slam something anonymously on the internet than to praise something) and b) would it really do so much of a better job than freezing things in plastic wrap and zip bags and c) would I use it enough to make it worthwhile seeing as I eat a lot less meat than I used to.
In the end, I finally gave in to myself and bought one. People I know personally who have them love them and took the time to tell me why they loved them and if there were things that they didn't so much love. So I was very much looking forward to getting the thing in the mail.
I was a bit disappointed bc it seemed to work fine w/the premade bags, that is, the bags that were already sealed at one end. It also included a roll of bag material. You cut it to the size you need, seal it at one end (you're just making a seal at this point, not vacuum sealing anything), put your stuff in and vacuum seal it at the other end. So I called the customer service and nothing they suggested helped so I sent it back.
There was a strip of black -- tape, I'll say for lack of a better word bc I'm not sure what it was and it was kinda like a black painter's tape -- that covered a skinny metal strip that got hot and made the seal. The tape looked temporary to me when I unpacked the thing so I took it off. Also, the pictures on the box of the unit in use showed it w/o the tape. I asked the rep if that might make a difference and she said no, that the black stuff could come off, but I have my doubts.
Upon receipt of the replacement, I did not remove the black tape and it's been sweet success all the way.
The thing cost $99. I think I got free shipping. It cost $30 to return the first one. So it really cost $130. Is it worth it? I dunno yet. I do think it keeps food fresher longer. Things like cheese last a lot longer, especially if it's organic and doesn't have lots of preservatives in it. Same with bread. I don't know yet about how well it keeps meat, such as this hunk o' London broil I froze in January. I'll be interested to see how well it keeps things like blueberries. Last year, I bought a mess of cheap blueberries and froze some bc we couldn't possibly eat them all before they went bad. I put them in a ziploc and tried to get out as much air as possible, but lots of frost still formed. Thawed, they're fine for cooking or baking, but certainly not for eating plain. I wonder if the Foodsaver will do better.
I suppose I should figure out how much it cost to pay for the thing, plus how much it will cost to keep myself in bags and bag rolls, then see how much less food I'm throwing out bco spoilage. I'll have to get back on that.
Now I've got to stuff Edison in his carrier and hie him to the vet. He's been vomiting lately and it seems to be increasing. It seems to be more than what could be attributed to shedding season. They'll do at least an x-ray and see if anything looks suspicious. They'll probably run some other tests, too. He's had such a hard time of it since last year when he had his procedure. He was found as a kitten all by himself at a local small business. I don't know anything about his mother or any littermates he may have had. Sometimes I wonder if the momcat could tell that something wasn't quite right with this one and so she diverted her resources to her other kits. Sad thought, especially since I've had the pleasure of enjoying Edison's company for over 3 years now. And he certainly seemed tough enough when he and I first met! He had quite the fierce when I snatched him out of his pipe. In fact, he was very much like this cheezburger cat:
I sure hope things turn out all right with him and the problem is something fixable.
So last year, along with working out with Mike the Trainer Guy, I started looking into eating differently, specifically, eating more fish and non-meat protein, less meat, more produce and basically trying different foods. Trying to wake up my taste buds as well as eat more healthfully. At the supermarket, as I'm looking for foods that are new and interesting to me, it seems that there are so many things there. So many things that don't seem all that food-like. So many things touting claims to have x% more omega-3 or y% less sodium or no trans fats, etc. etc. So many things with packaging that doesn't let you get a real good look at the food inside. So many things with long lists of ingredients. I was kinda hoping I could just eat some food.
So I started noodling around for information on, you know, food. Some friends/co-workers/patrons told me about veggie co-ops so I looked into those. For some you pay $X at the beginning of each season to a farmer or group of farmers. That gives them the funding to go about their farming business and gives you a share in their harvest. Every week (or every other week, whatever the co-op does), you go to the farm and pick up your share (or it gets delivered to a point person's house).
For others, you join a co-op and pick up a delivery of produce on usually a bi-weekly basis (some may deliver to your home). You can often get a trial basket, which is what I did for a couple of co-ops in the area. They all had good produce, but I eventually went with the bi-weekly The Big Basket from the Mountain Lakes Organic Co-op bc a) I like the person who runs it; b) I like the produce; c) I like that I don't have to do any work (some co-ops require that you take a turn receiving and dividing the delivery); and d) I like that I'm not obligated to get a basket when I'm away, I just have to tell the Head Veggie that I don't need a basket that particular week. So I buy 2 tote bags, one of which stays there for the next delivery. Here's a recent delivery:
Here's what's inside the bag. That's Eddie making a beeline for the pineapple leaves...he loves to chew on them. Miles, too. They gnaw and gnaw and gnaw on them. Actually, anything small and round is fair game for Miles. We now call the china cabinet the tomato safe and the potato safe bc he will bite into them and try to make off with them. What he intends to do with them once he gets them to the safety of his lair, I do not know. But if the tomatoes are left out on the counter, they will end up with bite marks all around them and sometimes he'll get one on the floor or, if it's a smallish tomato, he may get it out of the kitchen.
Ed's blocking the view of some of the produce, but this -- minus the cheese -- is $40 every other week. The cheeses and some other dairy products are in a fridge and you just add them to your order as you like and tack them onto the $40 check you leave.
We've gotten a few baskets so far and it seems that we always get a few greens (maybe a couple of lettuces and then something like chard, kale, etc.); root veggies; onions; apples; bananas; some citrus; and then some other stuff. In the above delivery, things we got then but don't always get are figs, strawberries, cauliflower, avocado.
I've really enjoyed the food we get from the co-op. It's fun to get surprises and figure out what to do with kale, chard, acorn squash...even celery. I found a great recipe for steamed celery from a Lidia's cookbook (I love what that woman does with food)...it was delicious and will make its way to the blog one Monday.
Now, what does this mean for my new year's resolution to save on groceries? Well, it will probably not help, although I don't know if it will hurt very much. And the stuff is so much better and gets me eating different stuff that it's well worth it. I think we may also tend to eat in more if we've got good stuff handy at home. In any event, I don't think $40 for two weeks worth of good produce for two people is exorbitant.
Although very handsome in his own right, the cat in the picture is not my even more handsome Miles, who can be seen here, resting after he's helped me make the bed (the above picture came from the ICHC site).
Quick mention here of a couple of good books about food: I'm currently reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma and recently read his In Defense of Food. They both give some good history into why our common, i.e., supermarket, food choices are what they are. Often it's just plain profit that drives certain food trends; other time it's advances in technology; most times it's a combination of profit motive plus something else.
So today's a pickup day; I'll pick up the goods after work tonight. I wonder what will be in there that I'll have to learn about preparing. I'll guess that one of these days there will be Brussel sprouts and I won't be ready for them.
Today's recipe comes from Campbell's Great American Cookbook published by Random House in 1984 and I believe now out of print. I've had this book since college and it was a great cookbook to have at the co-op where housemates took turns cooking for 24. The book still has notes from my housemates and me where we tripled and quadrupled recipes. It's kinda nice bc I still recognize their handwriting and get to think about them when I see those recipes.
This cake was part of the spread for the library's Thursday evening Needlecrafts Club. (BTW, the library has a facebook page...stop by and become a fan!) I like to have a theme, however tenuous, for the refreshments. This particular night was an egg theme as the main eats featured eggs from Clubber Susan's backyard chickens. She has about 50 laying hens and about 20 show hens that her daughter shows at farm shows. Show show show. I have to admit that I was a wee bit skeptical that fresh eggs would taste different from store eggs. Well, did I get egg on my face! Fresh eggs are 100x tastier than store eggs. I just read yesterday a description of fresh eggs that says it well: They stand up and slap you in the face! They look better, they taste better, they cook and bake up better...they're just so much yummier all around. I find I crave these fresh eggs now and am disappointed if I manage to run out of them and have to use store eggs. Even compared to farmed organic eggs I recently bought when I ran out of Susan's eggs, local fresh eggs are very different. I cannot recommend them highly enough.
Anyway, back to the eats. So that night we had Spinach Devilled Eggs (which I don't think I've blogged yet) and this Boston Cream Pie which is really a cake that uses a bunch of eggs in the custard in the middle. Looking at the picture of this cake, you can see the lemon squares that Karen brought in. Perhaps I can squeeze a recipe out of her for those.
Ingredients - Cake
1/3 c. butter or margine, softened
1 c. sugar
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1.5 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 c. milk
Instructions - Cake
Prepare Vanilla Cream Filling; chill.
Preheat oven to 350oF. Grease and flour two 9" round cake pans. (I used 8" pans bc that's all I had; it was fine.)
In a large bowl with mixer at medium speed, cream butter until light and fluffy.
Gradually beat in sugar until well mixed, constantly scraping bowl.
Beat in egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition, occasionally scraping bowl.
Add vanilla; mix well.
In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
Add dry ingredients alternately with milk to creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition, occasionally scraping bowl.
In small bowl with mixer at high speed, using clean beaters, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into batter; pour into prepared pans.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. I could have taken these out at 25 minutes; you can see they look a little brown. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely.
Spread Vanilla Cream Filling between cake layers.
Spread top with warm Chocolate Glaze.
Refrigerate until serving time.
Ingredients - Vanilla Cream Filling
1 c. milk
1/3 c. sugar
2 T. cornstarch
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 t. vanilla extract
Instructions - Filling
In heavy, 2-quart saucepan with wire whisk or electric mixer, beat all ingredients except vanilla. Over medium heat, cook until mixture just boils, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat, stir in vanilla. Cover; chill.
Ingredients - Chocolate Glaze
2 T. butter or margarine
1 square (1 oz.) unsweetened chocolate
1 c. confectioners' sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 T. hot water
Instructions - Glaze
In heavy, 1-quart saucepan over very low heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring constantly.
Stir in sugar, vanilla and enough hot water to make of spreading consistency.
Remove from heat; beat well.
Immediately spread on cake.
For the glaze, I used whatever ratio of confectioners' sugar and hot water to make the consistency I wanted; I think it was more sugar. For this cake, I want the glaze to be thick enough that it doesn't drizzle down the sides of the cake. Sometimes that looks really nice, but I didn't want it on this cake. I thought it would look sloppy going down this cake's sides.
Today's recipe is for Creamy Shrimp Dip and comes from The Culinary Arts Institute Cookbook, that venerable workhorse of a cookbook.
I made a couple of dips for the refreshments at the library's Thursday evening needlecraft club. The Creamy Shrimp Dip is on the right in the below picture. We enjoyed it with cut veggies, as you can see, as well as crackers and bread crisps, which are not seen below. (The dip on the left is a cottage cheese-based dip that I'm not too sure I liked so I may work on it before posting the recipe.)
The recipe is really easy and strikes me as a classic, 1950s kinda recipe.
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can (10.75 oz.) condensed cream of shrimp soup (until making this recipe I never knew there was such a thing)
2 T. chopped green onion
1 t. lemon juice
1/4 t. curry powder - one time I made this I didn't have any curry powder so I think I used cumin and it worked out well
dash garlic powder
4 drops Tabasco - maybe they made drops bigger back in the day, but you definitely need more than 4 drops of Tabasco; I'm not even a big spice person - I like a little zing, but that's about it - and even I think 4 drops is not nearly enough; I think I ended up with 16 drops; add a few at a time and taste
raw vegetables (for dipping)
Combine cream cheese, soup, green onion, lemon juice, curry powder, garlic powder and Tabasco with a beater just until blended; do not overbeat. Chill.
Serve as a dip with raw vegetable pieces. Or crackers. Or bread crips. Or bread sticks.
And that's all there is to it! I've made it a few times now and it's always a big hit. I especially liked it served with baked bagel chips. It's a quick, tasty recipe that's good to have in your repertoire.
Today's topic is fixing stuff before throwing it out, if possible. I think there's some catchy phrase for this concept, a la Reduce! Re-use! Recycle!, but I can't think of it at the moment. The idea is pretty basic: if you can, fix something before you throw it out only to buy another one to replace it.
Today's example #1 is the shower curtain. The shower curtain's a few years old. It was in pretty good condition except for a) a few tiny holes that don't affect its usage and that I'd be hard pressed to find if I had to and b) about half of the shower curtain ring holes had ripped. Especially the ones on the end, which does affect how well you keep the water in the shower and off the bathroom floor. Typically, one would buy a new shower curtain and, I confess, I have done that in my more frivolous past, but no more! I've signed on with that Dyson guy: 'I just think things should work properly.' Amen, brother!
And so with the shower curtain, I think, 'Why aren't they designed in such a way so that the holes last as long as the remaining 99.5% of the curtain?' It's like throwing away your winter coat bc a couple of buttons fell off. So, a while back, I had read about somebody who put grommets (I really like the sound of that word, for some reason) on his shower curtain. Also a while back, I bought a grommet kit. I (well, Kevin did most of the work, but I did the all important jump starting of the project!) recently got around to putting the grommets on the curtain. No before pictures, but here's a picture afterward:
So I fully expect this thing to last a good long time. I dunno if I'll keep it that long bc, as you can see from the circa late 1960s/early 1970s wallpaper, the bathroom is in dire need of a makeover and the curtain may not work in the new look. But it will last until that new look comes along (which will probably be a good long time) and perhaps beyond for someone else.
Example #2 is the dishwasher rack. I do have a before picture bc the dishwasher (which is a portable one) was leaking and we were thinking about selling it/giving it away so I took pix to email/post somewhere. But then I decided to look into repairing it. I think Kevin thinks I found the necessary part and fixed it myself, but actually I called a local appliance repair guy (Kevin used to read my blog at work, but it's behind a firewall now, considered 'entertainment' or 'non-essential' or something like that, and for some reason he never reads it at home so, bottom line, he doesn't read it anymore and so my secret is safe with the rest of the world). I paid $70 for the guy to come out, figure out the problem, clean out some gunk. When the part came in, I paid $110 for the part, but he didn't charge me anything more for the second visit to put it in. So $180 to fix it.
But it did still have these rust spots and the tops of many of the prongs were rusted. I bought this uber goop stuff fixed a bunch of the rusted spots and caps. Before:
It's kinda hard to see the rusty areas in the above picture. After:
I would like to get more caps and do most, if not all, of the remaining ones. So, for about $190 (plus $10-$20 for more caps and goop), it will be fixed. For now.
It might develop some major problem that would preclude fixing it v. buying a new one. Decent new ones go for about $500. And I have to say that I have zero complaints about this dishwasher. It has been a real workhouse for over 10 years; I forget when we got it; maybe 15 years ago now. And, since the kitchen is in even more dire need of a makeover, I'm happy to just have this one last until then (whenever that is). For two people, we manage to run it almost every day, sometimes twice in one day. We do cook and bake a lot at home and Kevin does manage to use the maximum number of pots and pans when he's in the kitchen. We do use real plates (from thrift stores and old ones we had) for the cats bc they seem to do better with them versus paper plates. It was more important when we had cats that took their medicine in their food; the medicine stayed in the food until the food was gone and didn't get absorbed into the paper plate. Plus, although we are washing the plates in the dishwasher, we're also not throwing out tons of paper plates. And the paper plates end up everywhere! They slide all over the place...under furniture, only to be found months later...and they flop over easy...onto carpeting. Ick.
Well, I gotta go get ready for work. Ciao, bellas!
I don't know how people with more going on in their lives, e.g., kids, eldecare, night school, etc., do it. By 'it' I mean 'live their lives'. I had a spell there where I felt like I was being pulled in all manner of directions, including toward some possibly heretofore unknown areas. And all I have going on is a) a job; b) a house; c) 1 husband; d) 4 cats; e) friends; f) hobbies/interests; g) exercise (allegedly). No kids. No parents to tend to personally or their homes. No big yard, just the little 50' x 150' that's mostly covered by the house, the garage and the overly round driveway (making it smaller is on the list of things to do; it always seems to get bumped by somethiing more pressing).
It probably doesn't help that I am not the Energizer Bunny. I wish I were one of those people who can get by on 5 hours of sleep per night. A college roommate once opined that I must be part cat bc I do enjoy my sleep and a good catnap is often just the thing. In fact, just this afternoon I was wondering if there was a facebook group to bring naptime back into our lives.
I just Googled 'famous nappers' and quite a few distinguished names came up: Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Eleanor Roosevelt, Lance Armstrong. This websitesays, 'Thomas Edison attributed his tremendous amount of energy to sleeping whenever he wanted to.
Sometimes it feels like there are so many things to do. And I acknowledge that not all of them need doing, but sometimes just the boring, day-to-day kind of stuff piles up. It felt particuarly bad around the holidays and I don't even get all that involved with the holidays. I felt all verklempt for a while earlier this year, too, although I don't know why.
Sometimes I wonder if part of feeling overwhelmed is due to always being on or reachable. Lately, I've found myself wanting to buy a remote, stark cabin in the Montana...no internet, no cable, no phone...but that would be too drastic; plus, it sounds too much like the unabomber. But I do find that I kind of pull into myself, or tuck into myself like a turtle, when I feel overwhelmed. I stay in more, I stay off the internet more, I futz around the kitchen or with my hobbies more, decline things that don't add to my life,... That's seems to help, i.e., putting some kind of insulation out there between me and the world.
There's so many things out there...so many experiences available...it's almost like the world is a candy shop: Go to this fundraiser. Read that new book everyone's recommending. Try this before bedtime ritual. Listen to this great CD so-and-so just rediscovered. Catch up on the news with these podcasts. Visit these people. Host those people. Figure out the healthcare bill so I know what I think about it. Did you see such-and-such new movie? Donate to earthquake victims. Look at this gorgeous yarn! And that adorable pattern! Buy Girl Scout cookies (Omgosh I am soooo overrun with Girl Scout cookies this year! I swear the scouts went all out w/their marketing this year.). I only have 24 hours in a day and I'm asleep for at least 8 of them and I'm at work for 8 more. After the usual stuff of life, there isn't a whole lot of time left for more living.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to live in one of those little downs that the Census Bureau says has 1 or 2 people in it. Or even more. A town w/o a stop light or store or post office or (gasp!) library. I dunno; that might be a bit drastic, too.
Oh, I dunno what the answer is. Intentional living seems to be helpful; it's just making that the norm and avoidng derailment.
Today's recipe was made for last week's Thursday evening Needlecrafts Club at work as well as in honor of St. Patrick's Day. It's from the book Irish Country Cooking: Traditional and modern recipes from the Emerald Isle by Ethel Minogue. It was on the shelves at work, about 10 feet away, and is another cookbook I just happened upon while passing through the stacks. Granted, our library is pretty small so perhaps it shouldn't be surprising to just stumble on useful stuff.
I was a little unsure of the finished product bc I've only made it just the once. I didn't get to try a piece, but given that that's bc it all went, I guess that's a good sign. I was unsure bc it doesn't say what size pan to use; I used 8". Also, it looks like a cake in the book, but it uses very small amounts of ingredients, e.g., 6 T. flour. I didn't get a picture of the one I made either, but it was shortish so I think it's supposed to be kinda like a big sandwich cookie. If I had smaller diamter pans, I would try using those next time.
Also, from the feedback I got: the cake layers weren't very chocolatey; might add more cocoa if you want more chocolate flavor.
Huh. Well, that picture stinks. The picture of the cake from the book (see, you can't tell how tall it's supposed to be):
You cannot go wrong with a simple dredging of confectioners' sugar.
Changes/notes in italics.
1/4 lb. butter
5 T. sugar
1 egg, well-beaten
6 T. flour
6 T. ground almonds (I ground the almonds by putting a handful of plain, raw almonds in one of those electric food chopper thingies.)
1 T. cocoa
1 t. baking powder
3 T. milk
1/4 lb. chocolate (didn't say what kind; I had an open package of milk chocolate morsels, so I used that)
1.5 T. milk (eyeballed the milk until I got the consistency I wanted)
5 oz. confectioners' sugar (eyeballed this, too)
6 T. unsalted butter (didn't have any thawed out so skipped this)
dash of almond extract
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the well-beaten egg.
In another bowl, sift together the flour, ground almonds, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Add alternately with the milk to the creamed butter and sugar. Combine thoroughly.
Divide the mixture between two greased baking pans and bake for 20 minutes.
When cool, sandwich together with the chocolate filling and dredge the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar.
To make the filling, mix the chocolate with the milk and warm over a low heat until the chocolate has melted.
Remove from the heat, beat in the confectioners' sugar, then leave until cool.
Cream the butter and then add the chocolate mixture and the almond extract; beat until light and creamy. Fill the chocolate sandwich.
Ugh. So I was motoring along there for a while after the new year wrt activity and healthy eating. Just moseyiing along, doing all the right things, eating all the right stuff, basically getting it all together. And all along I'm thinking to myself, 'I've never kept this up for this long. It's been a couple of months now. There have been days when the wheels came off before I was done with breakfast. When is it the bottom going to fall out?" And by the bottom falling out, I mean 'When am I going to find myself parked on the couch with the remote and a pint of ice cream for several days in a row?'
Bc that's how it feels sometimes, like I just find myself doing that. People talk about triggers, e.g., someone upsets them and they reach for the bon bons. Or they've got tons of stuff to do so they snarf down a whole package of oreos. I rarely can make that direct a connection; it just seems like I find myself in an unhealthy (wrt nutrition and/or activity) funk and have no recollection of how I got there. I don't even see it sneaking up on me. It's just all of a sudden I realize I'm off the wagon and it's been a few days since I fell.
So, finally, I found myself in that situation a couple of weeks ago. Mike the Trainer Guy theorizes that I was setting myself up for the funk by thinking about it. Not exactly sure what he means, but I think he means that my thinking about it as if it were inevitable kinda gave me permission to have/let it happen. Again, I don't know if I understood him correctly or not; I may have that all wrong.
His other theory (again, IIRC; there was much discussion on the topic) was that it's a bodily response to a craving. You know what, I really don't understand what all he said on this score. It was more involved than just, say, craving chocolate and, since I don't remember/understand it well, I'll not put words into his mouth.
My personal theory is non-existent at the moment. I thought that, by watching out for it I might recognize the funk before it hit and thereby avert it, but I missed it even so. I didn't feel triggered by anything. I didn't feel especially crazy-busy at the time (although I have felt crazy-busy since and I'm out of the funk). Now, just bc I didn't feel these things doesn't mean I didn't feel these things, IYKWIM. That is, just bc I say I didn't feel these things doesn't mean I didn't feel them; maybe I just didn't recognize them.
OTOH, in theory, I would like to be able to recognize it and save myself a coupla weeks of regression, plateauing, etc. OTOH, in practicality, I think to myself, 'Okay, you lost 10 lb. in about 3 months. Not the fastest and so you had a lull/backtrack there. So what. You did it. You feel good. Overall things are positive. It's life. Keep moving and, as long as you keep moving forward, don't worry about the nitty gritty.'
So, seeing as I currently have no idea what goes on when the funk hits, I guess I'll just go along with the practical approach and keep on keeping on.
I posted a New England Clam Chowder recipe not too long ago. I was walking down the stacks at work when I espied this book, New England Seafood Cooking. There's no author; it was published in 1993 by Crescent Books of NY and Avenel, NJ.
Here's their NECC recipe. Changes/notes in italics. Unfortunately, no pictures bc I forgot to take them.
Prep time = 30 min.
Cooking time = 20 min.
Servings = 6-8
2 lbs. clams (I used 3 cans of minced or chopped clams; I forget)
3 oz. bacon, diced
2 medium onions, finely diced
1 T. flour
6 medium potatoes, peeledand cubed
salt & pepper
4 c. milk
1 c. light cream
Scrub clams well and place in a sink ( or bowl) of cold water w/a handful of flour for 30 minutes.
Drain the clams and place them in a deep saucepan w/about 1/2 c. cold water.
Cover and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, until all the shells open. Discard any shells that do not open.
Strain the clam liquid, reserve it and set aside the clams to cool. (Didn't do any of steps 1-4 bc I just opened up cans of clams.)
Place the bacon in a large, deep saucepan and cook slowly until the fat is rendered. Turn up the heat and brown the bacon.
Remove it to paper towls to drain.
Add the onion to the bacon fat in the pan and cook slowly to soften
Stir in the flour and add the potatoes, salt, pepper, milk and reserved clam juice. Cover and bring t a boil for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are nearly tender.
Remove the clams from the shells and chop them if large.
Add the chopped clams to the soup along with the cream and diced bacon (I hold the bacon until serving bc some of this got frozen and I think the bacon bits don't freeze well). Cook 10 minutes more or until the potatoes and clams are tender.
Add the chopped parsley and serve immediately.
Kevin liked this recipe, although not as much as the first recipe I posted. That one was creamier and as he says, 'Creamier is always better.' You heard it here first. You could probably even make this one w/lighter dairy products. I didn't actually taste this one so I will let Kevin have the last word on this recipe.
It seems that the weather has become a phenomenon almost as big (and just as inexplicably so) as NASCAR. The weather just is...always has been...prolly always will, at least for human definitions of 'always'. And the weather will always be a handy topic of conversation. But what I don't understand is why everyday weather (i.e., not tsunamis or earthquakes or the like) become a topic of focus and concentration.
So we're supposed to get 4"-6" of snow by end of day today. Big deal. Okay, it's good to know so you can adjust your plans as necessary. For me, it just means I'll take Kevin's truck to work instead of my car. People with kids prolly want to know there might be a delayed opening or snow day (and it's amazing how little snow can trigger a snow day, but that's a whole 'nuther post).
It seems that the weather has become The Weather, akin to a mythic giant who challenges and battles people in tests of strength and will. Such an alarm is set off and such preparations are undertaken when snow - of almost any amount - is on the horizon. The worst part is the news and weather stations. Now, weather itself -- how it works, how this thing over here affects that thing over there, and all that -- can be very interesting. There's such hype in the media about normal weather, such as today's snow. I'm not sure why it bothers me so much, this weirdification of the weather, but I think it's something along the lines of making so much out of the weather makes people into weather victims. And I don't like that. People have been dealing with weather for millions of years and, for the vast majority of that time, with much less means than we have at our disposal these days. I understand that making a big deal out of the weather can mean better ratings, higher site hits, etc. for tv, radio, news, websites, etc., but I don't like this side effect.
Yet another recipe from allrecipes: Creamy Carrot Soup. A few simple flavors contribute to this very tasty soup. Peeling and slicing the carrots took a bit of time. You could just give them a good scrub and cut off the tops and not peel them. I think fresh carrots clean up well and taste yummy unpeeled. Maybe I'll try that when carrots are fresh.
I didn't have a potato on hand so I called around to a couple of neighbors and Stephanie had a small selection of 1 small regular potato, 1 good sized sweet potato and 3 small purple potatoes. I went with the sweet potato. I think Kevin thought it was a little weird to be calling around iso a potato, but what are neighbors for if not to loan you a potato in your hour of need? And, of course, Steph got some delicious homemade carrot soup out of it.
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter, cubed
4 1/2 cups sliced carrots
1 large potato, peeled and cubed - used a sweet potato
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed - I didn't have the crushed kind; I had the kind that look like tiny pine needles; used that; wouldn't do so in future bc it was like finding tiny pine needles in your soup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
In a Dutch oven, saute onion in butter until tender. Add carrots, potato, broth and ginger. Cover and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Cool for 15 minutes.
Transfer to a blender or food processor in small batches (used an immersion blender); cover and process until smooth. Return all to the pan; stir in the cream, rosemary, salt and pepper. Cook over low heat until heated through.
The onion, carrots, sweet potato, broth and ginger in Kevin's Valentine's Day Dutch oven:
After the immersion blender:
As Mike the Trainer Guy pointed out, you could make a workout around cooking with cast iron, the stuff is so heavy.
After adding in the cream, rosemary, salt and pepper:
Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken to the Dutch oven and brown on all sides in the butter and oil, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chicken to a cutting board.
Drain all but 2 tablespoons of liquid from the pan; stir the garlic cloves into the reserved liquid. Return the chicken to the pan; sprinkle the water, lemon juice, salt, thyme, and black pepper over the chicken; cover tightly.
Bake the chicken in the preheated oven until no longer pink at the bone and the juices run clear, about 90 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh should read 180 degrees F (82 degrees C). Remove the chicken from the oven, cover with a doubled sheet of aluminum foil, and allow to rest in a warm area for 10 minutes before slicing.
He was very excited to use his new-to-him cast iron Dutch oven that I won on ebay for him for Valentine's Day. It came last week and I was so pleased with its condition and excited about it that I couldn't wait to give it to him. He, in turn, couldn't wait to use it. We had just picked up some chicken leg quarters (at the local ShopRite's 22nd anniversary sale for 22 cents/lb.!) and he used four leg quarters in the above recipe.
Here's a picture of some leftover chicken. I did not get any action shots of the Dutch oven for this recipe, but I did make a carrot soup in it, have pictures of it there and will post them when I post that recipe.
So I'd been working out in the living room with Mike the Trainer Guy for some time now and I was sick of all the exercise stuff being out there in the room. Kevin and I cleared some space in our most un-lovely basement for a workout area. I got some of those thick, interlocking mats they use in martial arts classes (perhaps I unconsciously expect to land on the floor often) and we put them in that space.
Ignore that pile of kindling in the right foreground. Kev cut the pieces to fit around the a/c thing. Edison performed the QC inspection. Miles and Lizzie also slunk into the basement while we were moving stuff down there. They never get to go into the basement bc there's all kinds of dirty nooks and crannies and we don't want them getting tangled up in all the junk that's down there. But they got to explore for a short while and,from all accounts, a good time was had by all.
So now everything's down there except the treadmill which is still on the third floor. It's big, bulky and heavy enough that I don't know when -- if --that sucker will make its way to the basement.
There's lighting in the basement, of course, but there isn't any directly over that area. There's some just outside of the area. Right now, I'm using one of those lights you temporarily hang when you're working on the house, e.g., we used it this weekend while painting the inside of a dark closet. Mike suggested getting more lighting and I might arrange for something to centrally light the area, but I gotta admit that I kinda like it not too bright. I don't really want it to be as bright as, say, an office or bathroom.
Some people advised against using the basement for a workout area bc it is an old basement and it only has those high, tiny windows for natural light. But again, I have to admit that I kinda like the dungeon feel. I enjoy feeling like I'm withdrawing from the rest of the world when I go down there to do my thing. No phone, no TV, no email, no doorbell, no nothing.
No one can hear me scream down there.
I am considering putting an old TV and DVD player down there. There are DVDs I'd like to watch and I'd be happy having them in the background while I work out down there. E.g., I just took out a DVD lecture series on cosmology. I've had it out before and watched some of it with my butt firmly planted in The Comfy Chair, but I'd be happy to have it on while stretching, doing sit-ups, reps, etc. Until I do put a TV and player down there, I can always watch it while on the treadmill.
Making this area was a good investment of time, space and money. The stuff's always set up, i.e., I don't have to push the living room furniture out of the way anymore, so I can just noodle down there and do whatever I want...whether it's a whole hour of activity or short snatches of activity. Just writing about it makes me want to go right back down there!
You don't see it here, but I did decorate the walls with big pictures of tuxedo cats from last year's wall calendar. That actually made quite a difference; it made the space less drab and much more welcoming. All in all, a good move.