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

homestyle Chinese egg rolls . . .


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.


“Pizza”on lavash flatbread . . .


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 . . .


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!

fresh tomato and spinach spaghetti . . .

DSCN8569.jpgDSCN8564.jpgDSCN8571.jpgIt’s Sunday and we’re between Wild Card football games. I find the games a welcome diversion from whatever happens to be coming out of Washington constantly. Anyhow, I saw this recipe on the NYTimes website and thought I’d try it out for two of us.  While the Baltimore Ravens were losing, I read many of the comments attached to the recipe and adapted the recipe accordingly.

At the store, instead of cherry or grape tomatoes, I bought medium size tomatoes and used four of them for my dish. I cracked a large clove of garlic, smashed it and heated it up in a rounded deep skillet filled with a little olive oil. I cut up the tomatoes after rinsing them off – and put them into the pot. As they became fragrant, I smushed them down with a spatula and added a scant teaspoon of sugar. I have found that adding a little sugar to fresh tomato softens the acidity and brings the sweet tomato flavor to the fore. I let this cook down until closer to dinnertime.

When almost ready, I zested two Meyer Lemons and added the zest to the tomato mixture. From the pantry, I added about a half teaspoon of dried basil ad the same amount of crushed red pepper.

I broke up some thin spaghetti from the box and put them into the pot while water was coming to a boil in my electric tea kettle. I added a cup and a half a of hot water to the pot and turned the heat to medium high, stirring the fragrant, bright tomato pasta mixture.

It took about ten minutes to cook al dente while stirring occasionally (I usually cook thin spaghetti for 9 minutes most of the time.) Just when it was almost cooked, I stirred in half a bag of tender baby spinach and folded it into the pasta dish. Served in our ancient Chinese pottery dishes, we liberally grated fresh parmigiano-reggiano cheese on top.

This could be considered a pasta primavera type of dish since the ingredients are all vegetables. It’s a sister dish to the one I sometimes make with sauteed zucchini and fresh mushrooms with some Ragu marinara sauce with the spaghetti. In any case, it’s a nice contrast to spaghetti and meatballs – and very convenient to put together if you have enough tomatoes on hand. The lemon zest brings a brightness to the dish – and to me, is an essential ingredient to this recipe.

Bon Appetit!

Footnote: We just finished our supper and this recipe is a KEEPER!! Tasty and light – very satisfying to make and to eat!

roast chicken legs, yellow squash with bacon/onion and jasmine rice. . .

DSCN8562.jpgIt’s Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019 and we’re having chicken for dinner. I like to buy two small chicken legs at Whole Foods and cook them Asian style. First, I make a marinade in a small saucepan on the stove: Ohsahwa soy sauce, mirin, cooking sherry and a little sugar which comes to a boil and rests on the stove until cool. Sometimes, I add a few ice cubes to the marinade to dilute and cool it off at the same time.

In a bowl large enough to hold the chicken legs, I sprinkle the legs with Lawry’s garlic salt and then pour the marinade over them. I turn them after about an hour. I marinate the chicken mid-afternoon and when it’s close to dinnertime, I heat up a grill pan (or a smooth skillet) with a little vegetable oil – not too much as it will spit and spatter. Turn on the exhaust fan over the stove and brown the legs in the skillet on both sides until golden. Let the chicken rest while you preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Roast the par-grilled legs in the oven until cooked (about a half an hour or until it reads 165 degrees on an instant thermometer.) Meanwhile, start some jasmine rice in a rice cooker – 2 parts water to rice. Peel three yellow squashes and split in half, then slice thinly. In another skillet, brown some sliced bacon and onion, adding the squash pieces. Stir until the squash is cooked through, adding a little water during cooking. Drain any excess fat.

Serve the Jasmine rice, roast chicken legs and squash on a dinner plate. Bon Appetit! Tastes good with Miller Lite beer (very cold.) Happy 2nd day of 2019!


Gabrielle Hamilton’s New Year’s Day meal of Steak Tartare & Pommes Anna

01pommes-anna-articleLargeNew Year’s Day, 2019.

Gabrielle Hamilton writes about making Steak Tartare and Pommes Anna for a meal to start the year. Yum! Can’t think of anything more appetizing for me!



Postscript: My steak tartare was very tasty. I used a tried and true recipe from years past: freshly ground beef (85%); chopped anchovies, garlic salt, cracked pepper, Worcestershire sauce, fresh egg yolk, chopped red onion. Mixed well with more cracked pepper on top when served on Pepperidge Farm thinly sliced white toast.

The Pommes Anna were crispy on the outside but not as tasty inside as my own pan-fried skillet potatoes (cut on the large blade of a box grater, cooked and crispy on all side with some judicious turning in the skillet.

I’m glad that I came across Gabrielle Hamilton’s suggestion for this menu to enjoy on New Year’s Day. Happy 2019! Will repeat again next year!