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"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

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Valentine’s Day supper. . .

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I saw fresh jumbo ocean scallops glistening in the fish market today and bought some to make for V-day supper tonight. The rest of the dish includes parmesan brown rice risotto with zucchini and fresh spinach. There’s a recipe for brown butter scallops online and I plan to follow most of it except that I might cream the spinach and add a little nutmeg to it.

Lundberg makes a brown rice parmesan risotto in a box. I usually saute some fresh zucchini and mushrooms before preparing the risotto. The only caveat is to add less water than it calls for – otherwise, it turns out too mushy. The spinach is washed, dried and browned in butter-olive oil. When it has cooked, I cut it up and sprinkle a little nutmeg on it along with a little cream. Luscious!

As for the scallops, I dry them off and sear them quickly on each side, holding them in a separate dish. The last step is to melt some unsalted butter until it gradually browns. Serve the risotto with the spinach alongside and the seared scallops. Spoon the brown butter on top of the scallops and serve with a glass of Prosecco. Alongside are honey biscuits that G. picked up at the store and which we’re trying out for the first time.

Happy Valentine’s Day – and Bon Appetit!

 

 

 

snowstorm = homemade beef vegetable soup!

DSCN8688There has been a wave of snowstorms across the Midwest, some of them heading our way in New England this afternoon. We’re supposed to have six inches of snow late afternoon and evening followed by rain all night. Damp and cold!

When I was in the grocery store, I asked for the butcher to cut up some beef shin to make a homemade vegetable soup that I’ve been making for many years. The basic recipe steps are:

  1. Buy a meaty beef shin and sprinkle with Lawry’s garlic salt and pepper.
  2. In a large dutch oven, heat up some vegetable oil, add the beef shin to brown with chopped onions, chopped carrots and celery stalks and leaves.
  3. Turn the beef over and brown the other side, stirring the simmering vegetables.
  4. Chop some tomatoes (looking for a home in the fridge) or a can of Del Monte stewed tomatoes.
  5. Add beef flavoring (I use 2 Knorr gelatin packs) and add Spring water until there’s a good proportion of broth for the soup to simmer all afternoon.

As the soup cooks, taste the broth and check whether there’s too much beef flavor or not enough – add more water as needed. The meat will cook until it falls off the bone – remove the sinew and cut the beef into bite-size pieces.

6.   A half hour before serving, add freshly cut up cabbage to the soup.

I sometimes also add a handful of tiny alphabet macaroni to the soup which expands a little while it cooks.

For dinner, I might bake some cornbread or biscuits to accompany the soup. Here’s hoping we get less snow than more! Stay warm!

 

 

“Steak Diane” . . .

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It’s a Sunday without football, now that the season is over. We live in New England and are Patriots fans so we’re happy they won the Super Bowl. I also learned a lot about the other NFL teams since we watched them play each other besides the Patriots. Anyway, I was looking for a way to cook two thin ribeye steaks that I brought home yesterday

I think I’ll make “Steak Diane” because it requires thin steaks (pounded but ours aren’t,) and is quick to make. Here’s the steps:

  1. Prepare the steaks either by pounding a little or seasoning with salt and lots of cracked pepper (like steak au poivre.) I like to use a seasoned salt from San Francisco that contains truffles in it and the aroma is one of the most umami smells you ever came across!
  2. In a skillet small enough to contain the steaks, melt a little unsalted butter with olive oil. Heat it up and sear each side for about 2 minutes and remove.
  3. In the same skillet, melt butter and olive oil again; add a generous amount of chopped fresh mushrooms, chopped shallot, chopped garlic and stir a little while cooking; add a dollop of Grey Poupon mustard, one of Lea Perrin’s Worcestershire sauce and combine. Spill a little Madeira into the mix and stir together with a couple of spoonfuls of stock.  Turn down the heat.
  4. Add the steaks back into the sauce and cook until the steaks are medium rare (125 F. on an instant meat thermometer.) Let rest

Before taking the steaks out of the fridge, I started baking some Japanese sweet potatoes in the oven (400 degrees) for about an hour. Testing the potatoes for doneness, I leave them in the turned off oven while the steaks rest and warm up a small pan of extra petite garden peas. Strained with a pat of butter and salt, we’re ready to go. A simple, tasty steak dinner on a football-less Sunday evening!

YUM!

homestyle Chinese egg rolls . . .

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Even though it’s been overshadowed by the Super Bowl win and parade in Boston today, it’s still the Lunar New Year today – or Chinese New Year and I wanted to celebrate with some traditional food tonight. I went around to the Vietnamese grocery stores in town, one was empty and the other one was closed. I then went to a local Chinese restaurant at 11:00 a.m. to order some carryout for dinner but it wasn’t opening until 11:30 a.m. Then, I went to a regular grocery store nearby but the lines were clogged up and I gave up.

After lunch, we briefly considered going out to dinner tonight but I decided to go one more time to the local Stop and Shop to see if anything appealed to me to make at home. We prefer to eat at home so this was out last chance. I came home with a nice head of cabbage, a bunch of scallions, dried shitake mushrooms (hooray!) and some lean pork loin for $2. At home in the freezer, I knew I had extra large shrimp and fresh bamboo shoots.

I’ve been making egg rolls for a long time but don’t do it that often. The key ingredients that are different from eggrolls in a restaurant is that I use finely shredded fresh pork marinated in soy and sherry plus chopped fresh shrimp along with shredded cabbage. Most eateries may use pork but rarely shrimp. In addition, I use plenty of fresh bamboo shoots, cut up for crunch and stir fried together with the pork. Shitake mushrooms are soaked and cut up into thin strips. There is crunchy bulk from the cabbage and bamboo shoots; there’s rich flavor from the marinated pork strips and shrimp sauteed with garlic and scallions (remove garlic before wrapping.) Let all of this cool until stone cold.

Strain the mixture and move to a bowl. Fill a small bowl with cold water. Taking an eggroll wrapper, place a narrow strip of filling crosswise from point to point, wet the edges and wrap up with one corner going over the filling, folding the ends over and continue to roll until it’s sealed together. Let these rolls rest on some parchment paper. Cover with a clean dishcloth.DSCN8655

When it’s time for supper, heat up a skillet with fresh vegetable oil to a depth of about 2 inches. Test it for readiness by dipping a chopstick with some filling and see if the oil bubbles up right away. Place 2 or 3 rolls in the hot oil and turn over when golden brown on one side. Continue frying until the skins are golden brown and drained of any extra oil from it – place it on paper towels to drain. Serve with a clear soup with tofu and fresh spinach in it. Eaten hot, these eggrolls are crunchy, fragrant and flavorful! If there are any left over, they freeze well and can be reheated in the microwave. They make a great late night snack too!

Happy New Year! (I find that making resolutions is meaningful during this new year – more so than during the hectic atmosphere of the other New Year at the end of the year. More time for contemplation and commitment — at least for me.

 

half & half lasagna . . .

DSCN8653Today, I thought I’d use the ground beef I had in the fridge (about half a pound) to make lasagna. I love noodles and the thought of layers of noodles and ricotta plus cheeses sounded really appetizing to me. At the same time, I also remembered that I used to make lasagna with fresh spinach and mushrooms, layered together with said ricotta and cheeses too. So, I decided to make one big batch with half of each filling on either side.

In the middle of preparing the lasagna, I began to remember how much effort it requires: cooking the meat and adding tomato sauce with Italian herbs to simmer; boiling the lasagna noodles (the hardest part because they like to cook slowly and both fall apart and stick together; cutting up a box of mushrooms and sauteeing them with chopped garlic; chopping up a shallot and cooking it in olive oil along with half a bag of spinach and chopping it up; and finally, mixing together fresh ricotta with two eggs, a half cup of grated parmesan cheese as the creamy filling within.

Nonetheless, after filling the kitchen sink with dirty dishes, I put together a lasagna that had 9 cooked noodles, meat sauce, ricotta, mozzarella cheese, then on the other side,  noodles, spinach, mushrooms, ricotta and mozzarella cheese. I sprinkled Italian herbs on the plain tomato sauce for the spinach side. Alternating the layers, I finished up with two full layers, topped with noodles, sauce and mozzarella on the top. I covered the casserole with aluminum foil until time to bake it.

At 350 degrees, I’ll bake the lasagna for about 45 minutes with the foil on, then remove it and let it brown for another 15 minutes or so. There’s plenty to go around so I plan to freeze it and put servings into the freezer for a quick warming dinner later in the month. As long as I’m going to the effort to prepare all those ingredients, I thought it would be a nice idea to make a large batch and enjoy it later on without all the muss and fuss. A small ranch dressing salad with avocado and red onions rounds out our meal.

And, despite being a very tight game, the Patriots did manage to win Super Bowl LIII. The duck boat parade will be held in Boston tomorrow morning at 11:00 a.m.

GO PATS!

“Pizza”on lavash flatbread . . .

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Here’s tonight’s easy supper: a fresh piece of lavash flatbread spread with 4 tablespoons of Ragu pizza sauce, fresh mozzarella shredded cheese, parmesan cheese and fresh mushrooms. Preheated to 425 degrees and baked until golden brown – about 15 minutes. Yummy and super easy!

 

 

leftover roast lamb shepherd’s pie . . .

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For the snow-ice storm we just had over the weekend here in Massachusetts, I had taken out a leg of lamb that was in the freezer, a back-up for the holidays, and roasted it with mustard, fresh rosemary and lots of garlic.

We enjoyed it again the other night sliced medium rare with Major Grey’s mango chutney and baked Japanese sweet potatoes. Last night while waiting to go to sleep, I thought of making a shepherd’s pie from the rest of the lamb, along with chopped onions, garlic and carrots.

This morning, the task of cutting up the lamb wasn’t as tedious as I had feared. I cut out all of the fatty bits, then sliced it into thin strips, then into small cubey bits. After the chopped vidalia onion was beginning to soften in the skillet along with olive oil and two cloves of chopped garlic, I added chopped carrot and the lamb. I sprinkled the mixture with Lawry’s garlic salt, truffle salt and cracked pepper, letting the aromatic mixture simmer together.

This afternoon before supper, I’ll place half of the lamb melange  into a casserole and freeze the other half. I’ll sprinkle a little hand grated nutmeg on top of the filling before topping it with mashed potatoes (which I make from instant mashed potato packets,) dotting the top with salt, pepper and bits of butter. Baked at 375 until golden brown, this meat pie is something to look forward to!

 

 

“shut-in” apple cake . . .

dscn8622The temperature outside is minus 3. Windchill about -23 degrees. The weather person said that exposed skin will get frostbite in about a half an hour. So, a good day to stay indoors until it warms up a little later this week.

For lunch, I found a stalk of leek in the vegetable drawer and made potato-leek soup with chicken broth for lunch. I melted some butter, sauteed the chopped leek and about five peeled small russet potatoes. Added water and half a pack of gel chicken broth made by Knorr. Mashed the potatoes with a potato masher & swirled it with an electric mixer in the pot at the end – a make-do immersion blender!

During the afternoon, I thought about something to bake for dessert. I remembered a very old recipe I had written into my McCall’s cookbook. It was a plum cake recipe originally but I’ve made it with fresh peach slices on top and most often, a peeled and sliced apple. Here’s the recipe I used:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together 1 stick of room temperature unsalted butter, a cup of sugar and 2 eggs until creamy. Add a teaspoon of baking powder, a teaspoon of vanilla and a pinch of salt.

Into a small fluted porcelain baking pan sprayed with Pam, add the batter in and topped with peeled Honey Crisp apple slices. Sprinkled cinnamon on top and put into the oven for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle. After turning off the oven, I let the cake rest on the edge of the rack to cool.

It’s a simple and lovely cake to make on the spur of the moment. Any stone fruit in season is delicious to set on top including fresh plums, peaches or apples. It’s tasty by itself or served with some freshly whipped cream.

 

 

banana tea bread . . .

dscn8614After seeing three bananas ready for a smoothie or something else, I decided to make a banana bread with orange zest this afternoon. It’s a tried and true recipe that I turned to in my trusty McCall’s cookbook.

I melted a half stick of unsalted butter in a big glass pyrex mixing measuring bowl. To it, I added one cup of granulated raw sugar, 1 large egg and 3 teaspoons of baking powder. I stirred it together by hand with a whisk and then added the three ripe bananas. I used a potato masher on them until they were soft and smooth in the batter. Then added some salt, 2 1/2 cups of flour (lightly measured); zest of two small clementines plus juice and stirred it together. Last, I added about a half cup of whole milk and another flick of orange juice. The orange zest made it very fragrant – and for good measure, I added a packet of honey toasted salad walnuts into the batter.

The nearest loaf pan I saw in the pantry was a long narrow one so I cleaned it, sprayed it with Pam and then gently poured the batter into the pan, using a rubber spatula.

Into a pre-heated oven set at 350 degrees, the bread baked for about 55 minutes until it was golden brown and split down the middle. I tested the center for doneness with a toothpick. Looked fine to take out of the oven.

I let it rest on the edge of the rack with the oven door open. Then let it cool, running a sharp knife around the edges and turned it out on a long platter.

Scrumptious – and extra delicious with the walnuts and orange zest. And, yummy bananas! No matter what happens outside, making simple recipes like this can turn a weekend Saturday into a special one.

Life is good!

Footnote: the glorious tea mug with party cardinals on it holds hot Lapsang Souchang tea!

 

sheet pan roast chicken & vegetables. . .

DSCN8573.jpgWishing to expand my usual suspects for dinner meals, I’m trying out another recipe from the NYTimes – this one of roasted chicken, sweet potatoes and other vegetables garnished with a fresh lemon vinaigrette before serving.

Although the recipe calls for chicken breasts, I opted for chicken thighs, bone-in and with the skin on. We’re not fans of white meat and the flavor of roast chicken seems richer with the chicken intact. I do, however, make two deep cuts along each thigh bone and flatten the chicken to ensure it’s cooked through.

After rinsing and drying the chicken pieces with a paper towel, I peeled leftover parsnips and two sweet potatoes, cut up to cook along with the poultry. I also cut up a vidalia onion and added some leftover asparagus to the sheet pan melange.

Into a 425 heated oven, this dish cooked beautifully. On the side, I mixed up a vinaigrette of fresh Meyer Lemon juice, Japanese seasoned Marukan vinegar, a dollop of honey and grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

As suggested, I served the cooked vegetables and roasted chicken with a slight glaze of the vinaigrette. Although I was a little dubious about adding the vinaigrette, it was surprisingly tasty. A couple of rolls filled out our meal.

A nice variation that I’ll make again!