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My reading of late has been short and fitful, somewhat like my sleeping pattern, ever since my dear husband passed away. I’m still in 2 book clubs, though, and have wanted to keep up with the reading for those.

When I started reading The Divorce Papers: A Novel by Susan Rieger, I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue. Initially, it brought back too many unpleasant memories of my divorce in 1979-80. But I kept reading and soon was engrossed in the unusual approach. It’s about Sophie Diehl, a young criminal attorney who gets roped into working on this very messy divorce taken on by her law firm. The entire book is written via letters, documents and email messages between the pertinent parties in this divorce (the couple divorcing, their daughter, both attorneys, her boss, and one of Sophie’s best friends). It’s a clever book. As I write this, I’m about 80% through, so I don’t even know how it ends, but I’ve enjoyed the read so far.

Recently finished Orphan Train: A Novel by Christina Baker Kline. It’s about a little known period of time (1854-1929) when orphaned children were loaded onto trains on the East Coast and sent to the Midwest to be adopted by families who needed or wanted children. Some were adopted by people who were unfit; some of the children were lucky and found good, loving homes. This is the story of one of the girls, Vivian Daly and her journey. Woven into the story is a much later period of Vivian’s life when many facts of  her earlier experiences are revealed. A very, very interesting book; there’s a love story in it too.

Since I’m a fan of Ann Patchett, it’s no surprise that I wanted to buy her most recent book, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. It’s a book of short stories, but not fictional ones – it’s a compilation of essays and articles she’s written over the course of her writing life. My favorite is the one in which she describes in intimate detail how she goes about writing a book. About the process, her thinking, and the the hard, hard work it entails. I loved every one of the stories. She is quite self-deprecating about the book – it likely wasn’t her idea to put it together as she never thought any of her essays were worth much. She wrote them to make a living. Each of the chapters (essays) has been updated and/or addended to, so she did have to put some spit and polish on all of them before sending this group to the publisher. She’s written essays for a very esoteric group of publications; some I’d never heard of. But I enjoyed the book from beginning to end.

Also just finished reading The Invention of Wings: A Novel by Sue Monk Kidd. What a story. Sometimes it’s a good thing to read the author’s notes before you read a book. I guess I’m glad I didn’t (in this case the notes were at the end of the book) because it was then, afterwards, that I read that one of the characters in this novel is fictional; the other two (sisters) were real. There’s a bit about the Quaker religion in this book too, which was different. This is a slavery story and about the beginnings of the abolitionist movement. Interwoven between the 2 sisters who make waves about anti-slavery is the poignant story of one particular slave and her hard, hard life. It’s heartbreaking in many respects, not just because of the violence and abuse heaped upon her. The book is almost a page-turner. Very glad I read it.

Also read The Four Seasons: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona. It was recommended to me by a friend, and I enjoyed it a lot. It has a rather unusual story line, all envisioned by the author from reading a tiny line of elaborate script from a journal at what remains of a foundling hospital (run mostly like a convent by Catholic nuns) in Venice. It said something like Antonio Vivaldi purchased “a bow for Maddalena Rossa.” That started the author’s novel journey. Two sisters are raised at the Ospedale della Pieta. One becomes famous for her violin skills; the other for her voice. One is married “out” and the other stays cloistered her entire life. Then you throw Vivaldi himself into the mix, as he really was paid by the Ospedale for his compositions and for teaching some of the residents to play instruments. It’s an enlightening story about Vivaldi himself (a priest, with a lot of questions about his piety). It takes place in the early 1700s. Fascinating story and I want to listen again in total to Vivaldi’s very famous work, The Four Seasons, as a result of reading this. I’ve heard it many times before, but it will have new meaning now.

IN THE POWDER ROOM: Our guest half-bath has a little tiny table with a pile of books that I change every now and then. They’re books that might pique someone’s interest even if for a very short read. The Art of Travel, a collection of essays about traveling (it’s not a how-to), gathering a variety of stories of some historic authors and where and why they traveled; The Greatest Stories Never Told; and Sara Midda’s South of France; also Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller’s Collection of Odd Things Lost Between the Pages (just the cutest book – with a miscellany of things – letters, grocery lists, notes, reminders, confessions the author discovered hidden inside the books he purchased for his used bookstore); and The Trouble with Poetry (Billy Collins).

Tasting Spoons

My blog's namesake - small engraved sterling silver tea spoons that I use to taste as I'm cooking.

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Posted in Desserts, on October 20th, 2014.

cc_pumpkin_pie_spice_bars

So, picture a deliciously tender pumpkin cake with lots of those pumpkin pie spices in it. Then add some mini-chocolate chips, and then add a cream cheese frosting. Oh my.

The recipe comes from a blog that’s no longer being updated, Culinary in the Desert, but I saved this recipe in 2005, when it was posted, because in the fall I’m all over pumpkin anything. Our evenings are starting to cool down (although we’re told we’re having another heat wave here in SoCal later this week) and I almost wanted a sweater to wear this morning.

felicity_julietteAs I mentioned last week, the 2 young neighbor girls came over to cook with me, so I had them make this cake. They could hardly keep their hands out of the baked cake pan, they wanted some so badly. But it had to cool and the frosting needed to be made, spread and then “set,” before we could slice and serve. But oh gosh these are delicious. SO tender. There’s nothing unusual about the recipe – it uses oil, not butter. I always use Libby’s pumpkin because I think theirs is the best out there. I had mini chocolate chips, and there weren’t all that many in the cake. The frosting is a usual kind of cream cheese and butter with some minced walnuts added. I cut these in little bars, about 3 inches long by 1 inch. They’re still definitely a CAKE, not a cookie in case you are confused by the use of the word “bar.” The smaller size makes for easy eating with your hands rather than a knife and fork. I tasted one bar and kept 6-8 more. The rest of them went home with my neighbor girls, Juliette and Felicity.

What’s GOOD: because I love pumpkin, that definitely hits the mark. I loved the few mini choc chips in the cake too. And well, what’s there not to like about a cream cheese frosting? If you wanted to cut down the calories, make about 1/3 less frosting. I had plenty – maybe just a tad too much, but hey, I ate it and liked it just fine. You probably could make it with light cream cheese also.

What’s NOT: there wasn’t anything about these that I didn’t like. Nothing!

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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

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Chocolate Chip-Pumpkin Spice Bars

Recipe By: Culinary in the Desert
Serving Size: 30

BATTER:
1 3/4 cup mashed pumpkin
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
FROSTING (you can make about 1/3 less of this if you wish):
8 ounces cream cheese — softened (light would probably work)
4 tablespoons butter — softened
2 teaspoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar — sifted
1/4 cup walnuts — toasted, finely minced (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and 10×15″ baking pan or coat with nonstick spray.
2. BATTER: In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs, and sugars until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, ginger and cloves. Toss in mini chocolate chips and stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to the wet and stir until moistened. Scoop batter into pan. Bake until the center springs back when lightly pressed in the center – about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.
3. FROSTING: In a large mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth. Frost bars and sprinkle half with walnuts and grate some chocolate over the other half if desired. Cool and cut into bar shapes or small squares. Refrigerate after a few hours (cover with plastic wrap). Allow to sit at room temp for about 10 minutes if time permits.
Per Serving: 294 Calories; 15g Fat (43.2% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 40g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 41mg Cholesterol; 160mg Sodium.

Posted in Cookies, on October 16th, 2014.

oatella_cookies

Oh my goodness are these ever good. I clipped the recipe out of a recent Food & Wine magazine, thinking well, maybe sometime I’d make them. They may have to become part of my annual Christmas cookie menu. We’ll see.

I have new neighbors. We share a driveway, and so the residents in these two homes need to – for sure – be neighborly. My house actually has an easement on their property so I have ingress and egress (isn’t that the legal language?). They moved in about 10 days ago but I’d actually met them several weeks before because their realtor, Celine, is a friend of mine, and she brought the whole family to my house to see the difference in my view vs. the view next door. We talked about the driveway – I can imagine some people would have concerns.

felicity_julietteAnyway, they’ve moved in now and are settling in. They’re a much younger family with two daughters, 9 and 11. The Mom and I have been texting frequently as she’s had lots and lots of questions about numerous things regarding our adjoining properties. She’s not a cook. Well, let’s rephrase that – she cooks – but only because she needs to feed her family. And because I’ve been kind of stuck in my house the last 12 days healing my foot, she asked if I’d like some company – she would send her two girls over to do something with me – to entertain me. She suggested they could teach me French (Mom is French Canadian and the girls go to a French school). Or I could give them an art lesson. Or, perhaps I’d like to teach them how to make cookies. Imagine your surprise? – I chose the last option. The Mom bought stuff for us, and we made two things, these cookies you see and also a pumpkin chocolate chip cake with a cream cheese frosting, which I’ll post in a few days.

I sat here at my computer in the kitchen, which is right by my baking center area. And I became the instructor – mostly from a seated position. They did all the work including most of the cleaning up. The girls don’t know too much about cooking, although the older one, Felicity, makes numerous breakfast things for the whole family. She makes eggs in various ways and omelets and French toast. But baking? No. I needed to give them lessons in how to use (and be careful of) a stand mixer. How to measure dry and wet things. How to scoop and scrape flour measurements. How to use a plastic spatula, spreading batter, all about scooping cookie dough (and yes, they ate their fair share of dough) and how to bake and turn the sheet half way through. Felicity, the 11-year old, did that part and was duly fearful of the hot oven. I taught her how to do the pulling out and turning. Felicity learned how to chop nuts using a rocking motion with a big butcher knife and the flat of her other hand holding down the blade. She did well. Both girls did a great job and we had so much fun!

Most of the cookies went home with them, but I have about a dozen. So now, about the cookies. They’re an easy cookie to make – the batter/dough is a bit on the dry side, but they are light and crispy when baked. The Nutella – oh gosh – what a great addition to an oatmeal cookie.  (You know what it is, right? A mixture of chocolate and hazelnuts?) The only unusual thing (other than using a full 13-ounce jar of Nutella) is that the cookie uses shortening. I buy the non-hydrogenated stuff and have been on the same small container for about 3-4 years, I think. I almost never use the stuff. It does create a different texture in cookies – a more neutral flavor, I think, and it acts differently in a chemical way, I believe.

Felicity and Juliette used my cookie scoop, placing about 12 cookies on each sheet pan lined with parchment paper. The girls made larger cookies than I might have, but it probably “makes no never-mind” in the flavor. Really large ones would take more baking time, I’m sure. They spread a little bit, so do leave 2 inches of space between the cookies.

What’s GOOD: oh, the flavor of the Nutella. It’s wonderful. And certainly a whole lot easier (and more tasty) than using expensive hazelnuts themselves. Loved the combination of the Nutella and oatmeal. Crispy (which I prefer anyway) and a bit chewy. Warm, they almost have a chewy fudgy quality, but once they cool they’re definitely a cookie. A keeper of a recipe.

What’s NOT: maybe finding Nutella? I think my major grocery stores carry it. Trader Joe’s also makes their own version. I am not a connoisseur of Nutella so I don’t know if TJ’s is as good or not. Also the use of shortening might mean a trip to the grocery store. I was lucky, I had Josee, the girl’s Mom to fetch the grocery list of stuff for me! Hooray!

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Files: MasterCook 5+ and MasterCook 14 (click on link to open recipe in MC)

* Exported from MasterCook *

Oatella Cookies

Recipe By: Food & Wine, 9/2014
Serving Size: 60

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup vegetable shortening — (I use the non-hydrogenated type, not Crisco)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
13 ounces Nutella
2 cups rolled oats

1. Preheat the oven to 375° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the shortening with both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the side of the bowl. Add the Nutella and beat until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the dry ingredients until just incorporated, then beat in the oats.
2. Scoop 1-tablespoon mounds of dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (mine took 10 minutes), until the edges are lightly browned and the cookies are just set; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through baking. Immediately transfer the cookies from the pan to racks to cool. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Per Serving: 112 Calories; 6g Fat (44.2% calories from fat); 1g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 7mg Cholesterol; 46mg Sodium.

Posted in Books, on October 13th, 2014.

You may have said to yourself, “I’m tired of reading stories about World War II.” I have friends who have stated that flatly, meaning they’re done with them. They’ll be missing a really good tale, a sweet tale, and one that’s certainly way out of the usual norm of a novel about that war.

This story isn’t about the warfare. Without giving away the story, let’s just start with a young girl, in her early teens, who is blind. She lives with her father in Paris, and then the war comes to their lives. The father works at a museum, and the powers-that-be decide to try to hide most of the treasures, the biggest, most valuable treasures. A particular diamond, a huge diamond with an interesting story in and of itself, has so much value that a gemologist is asked to make a replica of the diamond from glass. A total of 3 replicas are made and 4 people are asked to care for the 4 “diamonds”. None knows which one has the real diamond, but they’re asked to keep each one safe.

Eventually, when the Germans begin nosing around trying to locate the missing diamond, the father and daughter flee to St. Malo, a small town a few miles from Mont St. Michel, that gorgeous beehive of a town built on top of a rock on the coast of Brittany. They move into a home of relatives there.

Meanwhile, there’s a young German boy who is very bright. He’s recruited to join Hitler’s army. His skill is with radios. He’s not exactly a zealot – in fact he’s not – he’s a gentle boy – but as with so many young people back then, you did what you were told. Eventually his skill was noticed by others and he gains a reputation for locating resistance fighters (in hiding) who send short radio transmissions to the Allies. Systematically he and his helpers find and take out many such transmitters and the people who use them.

There’s one more little tidbit I must tell you . . . the dear father of the young girl is good with small things, models and such. He had built a small replica of the neighborhood where they lived in Paris so his blind daughter could find her way to the bakery or other places. Each little model home, although many stories high, was built as a separate piece and they’d be lined up side by side. From studying the models, and with her father’s help, she learned to walk alone, with her cane, past 4 storm drains, left at the third cross street, or whatever, to find her way. When they moved to St. Malo, her father began building a new replica of that village. Mostly they stayed in hiding, as most people did. Her uncle, who was also good with radios, began helping the resistance.

Her father, of course, has the diamond. Or he has one of the diamonds. The young blind girl is resourceful. Very bright too. Knows the little model of her village. Reads Braille, what few books that were available back then. You can tell from what I’ve said that there’s a little collision of events, the boy who is hunting for radio resistance fighters, a German colonel who is hunting for the diamonds, and the one little house in St. Malo. Do read this book: All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr. Worth reading. It’s a love story too. Trust me.

Posted in Cookbooks, on October 9th, 2014.

I can’t believe that I bought yet another cookbook. Geez. I’m hardly cooking these days, but when I read about it online my fingers were just pulled mysteriously to that one-click method on amazon. I pay for amazon prime, so it’s free shipping in 2 days (yes, I know I still pay for it, but I buy a lot of stuff from amazon). Pressed one button and 2 days later it was on my doorstep.

Years ago, when I started watching that years’ The Next Food Network Star, as they introduced Aarti Sequeira, I knew. I just KNEW she’d win. And she did. She has the most infectious smile, and cute way about her. (Did you know that she worked at CNN for a few years?) I’ve been a long time lover of Indian food, and she made it more approachable.  She adapted it to Western tastes. She played with flavors and spices. I faithfully watched her show, Aarti Paarti that was on for a couple of these things they call “seasons.” I mean what’s with this “season” of about 6 or 7, or maybe 8 shows. Not for me to reason why. When her show didn’t come back, well, let’s just say I was sad. But I’d been reading Aarti’s blog for several years, so I knew a bit about what was going on in her life. She never did explain, exactly, why her show didn’t return. I guess when you do get your network-star-show, they don’t renew it. I don’t know that any of the winners have a continuing actual cooking show. Correct me if I’m wrong. But then, we know that most everything on the Food Network is about showmanship and acting anyway. The food is less important.

So, Aarti is married to Bren (he’s in the acting/producing world in Hollywood) whom she met in her first days at Northwestern(journalism major). Aarti grew up in Dubai, although she’s 100% Indian and her family still lives in India. Aarti and Bren now have a baby daughter and while Aarti was pregnant she wrote her cookbook Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen with an Indian Soul. And what a gem it is. I also love her because she’s an active Christian.

Ree Drummond (Pioneer Woman) wrote the forward to the book, and as I sat and read that last night, all I could say was that Ree absolutely loves the book. Ree doesn’t (I don’t think) cook Indian food. At least I don’t recall any recipes on her site or show that were Indian in nature. But she says she loves Indian food. However, I’ll tell you, as I began reading through the book (and so enjoying all the stories about Aarti, more details about her growing up, her sisters, her mum, her grandmother, her dad) she became so much more the fun girl next door. I just would love to have her as a friend. I can’t say that about very many food network people, but Aarti? Yes, indeed.

It would take me forever to write down all the recipes I’ve mentally flagged in the book already. I’ve read about 2/3 of the book so far, and I’m in love. Below are a few that rocked my boat and made me wish I could cook all of them today!

Of course, Indian spices feature prominently in nearly every recipe. How could they not. And many of those spices I do have in my kitchen. Maybe not so for everyone, but most are easy enough to find.

Good Girl Granola – the usual kinds of ingredients but with coconut oil added, along with cardamom and garam masala. Also cocoa nibs, cinnamon, maple syrup.

Ketchup Chutney – well, we know Indian cooking often features chutneys, and Aarti’s explanation about her home-made ketchup chutney just made my mouth water. And no, it uses no ready-made bottled ketchup.

Aarti’s “Real-Deal” Hummus – she’s very particular about her hummus. I’ve basically OD’d on hummus (the store bought stuff) in the last year. But her recipe makes me want some – it has a slightly different method of preparation (still using canned beans, though) and a few different ingredients as well. I’ll be making this. Soon.

Chewda – pronounced just like it sounds. It’s an Indian snack and contains cornflakes, rice crispy type cereal, nuts and seeds plus turmeric, curry leaves and golden raisins. Very different.

Lasagna Cupcakes – Aarti says she has a real problem with portion control when it comes to American lasagna, so she decided to make them in individual portions – using won ton skins in a muffin tin with the meat sauce inside, ricotta and topped with cheese. The only Indian thing in this is a little bit of mango chutney added to the ricotta filling.

I’m a sucker for dal (lentils). I gosh-darned love the stuff though I don’t make them very often just cuz they’re so high in carbs. They’re very good for us, you know, but still, they’re high in carbs. My daughter Sara came to visit me last Sunday night and at my request, she made a batch of the Moroccan Harira Chicken Soup that contains garbanzos and lentils. I can’t get enough of that stuff and now I have a bunch of bagged containers in the freezer. Aarti explains in the chapter on lentils and beans, that her Mum’s Everyday Dal was on the dinner table every single day, just as the title explains. Notice the link there –  I made this recipe in 2010 after she prepared it on her TV show.

French Onion Soup – who would think that onion soup could be adapted to be Indian. Why not?And indeed it can be adapted, and it sounds so scrumptious with cinnamon, cardamom and paneer (that’s a cheese that doesn’t melt) croutons. I cannot wait to make this one. Good for freezing for winter dinners.

Tomato Rasam (or Tomato Soup) – made Indian style. Can’t wait to try this one either. It uses pigeon peas (toor dal), cumin, curry leaves, tamarind paste and some yogurt and cilantro for a topping. Oh my that sounds so good. Another one I’ll make in quantity to freeze.

Indo-Chinese Chicken & Corn Soup – did you know that Indian people, in India, are crazy about Chinese food? Yup. So, combining things from an Indian cuisine and something from Chinese is a given. This one, even though it looks creamy, contains no cream, just canned creamed corn. What makes it unique is coriander, bay leaves, anise and fresh ginger.

Dill, Cilantro & Coconut Milk Fish Chowder – Aarti says that her husband has been a big inspiration for recipes – he’s from Maine and asked her to make chowder. So she did, but she used garam masala, ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric and coconut milk to round it out. She used cod fillets.

Pregnancy Potatoes – reading this recipe had me laughing. Aarti had her fair share of morning sickness (or any-time-of-day sickness) and she said that when it came on, this was what she craved, among other things. It can be a side dish to a dinner, but for her it became a snack. They’re wedged potatoes baked with all kinds of Indian spices on them and could be served any time of day.

Beet(root) Thoran – I can’t say that I buy fresh beets all that often. My darling DH adored them, preferably pickled right out of the can. But once I came into his life in 1981 I wouldn’t let him have those anymore (because they were so full of sugar). One year we raised beets and in order to get me to fix them he had to put on his painting clothes and I required him to wash, roast and then remove all the skin because he got purple juice everywhere. Then I made them in several ways. But anyway, Aarti’s recipe sounds so different – it’s grated raw beets cooked with Indian spices and served with toasted cashews. Sounds divine.

Coleslaw – I never expected to find a recipe for this in her cookbook, but it’s nothing like what you think. It does contain some mayo and yogurt and it uses lime juice, turmeric, garlic, cumin and mustard seeds as well. Also half of a celery root too.

Dal Bukhara – this is a main dish lentil in a curry sauce. The ingredient list is long, but my guess is it would be amazingly flavorful. The spices include coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, chiles and paprika. Another one I want to make soon.

Well, so that’s just a smattering of recipes that appeal to me. And I’m not finished reading the book yet.

Update on me: My foot is still healing – the boot comes off next week, then we’ll see if the cumbersome thing (that feels like a small sack of cement and makes for ever-so difficult walking) on my foot has done any good. I am counting the hours until I get the 2nd cataract surgery done next week so I can SEE better! The last 9 days I have basically stayed home and rested my foot. And I mean rested. I’m going stir crazy, especially without my DH here to keep me company, go shopping or just entertain me. I have gone out of the house just a few times and have tried to walk very, very short distances (Trader Joe’s, the eye doctor’s office). That’s it for now.

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 28th, 2014.

Roux – that ubiquitous mixture that forms some of the great flavor in gumbo. Photo, by the way, is from wikispaces.com. In  the October ‘14 issue of Saveur Magazine, a little photo illustrated the making of a roux in the oven. Yes, really.

The method is Alton Brown’s. Heat the oven to 350°F. In a large 8-quart Dutch oven or deep iron skillet, mix equal parts canola oil and all-purpose flour. Whisk it, cover it, put it in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until it’s deep brown. Move the pot from the oven to the stove top and make the gumbo from there.

Quicker Cooking of Beans – Had never heard this recommendation – soak dried beans overnight in water with one teaspoon of baking soda added per quart of water – and the beans will take much less time to cook, in nearly half the time. It has to do with the alkalinity (the soda) breaking down the cell walls of the bean. This was also in Saveur, but the info comes from Harold McGee’s book, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

Removing Red Wine Stains from Linen or Cotton – In the same issue here’s a recommendation about removing red wine stains – forget the salt, seltzer or baking soda . . . this one says apply a high-enzyme liquid detergent or stain remover (look for the word enzyme on the label). Work that mixture into the stain with a brush, pour boiling water onto the stained area and allow it to soak for 30 minutes. The advice came from two women who have a laundry product line called The Laundress – www.thelaundress.com

Very little cooking is going on in my kitchen. I’m now getting around in an orthopedic boot (meaning my plantar fascia IS torn, not just stretched). Must wear it for 3 weeks, then graduate to good, solid athletic shoes with good arch support, doing exercises very gingerly at first. I’m off pain killers (a good thing) but only because the boot kind of rocks my foot forward so I don’t land on the heel (where the major pain is). The boot isn’t uncomfortable exactly. Just cumbersome. I can’t stand for more than a minute or two, then my heel starts to hurt. All that to say that I can’t begin to stand at my kitchen counter to prepare a meal. Forget it! So I’ve been eating out more than usual. Am eating some stuff from my freezer too.

I still can’t believe it’s been 6 months since my darling DH passed away. How can it possibly be 6 months ago. My cousin Gary is visiting me and I asked him, yesterday, to drag out of the closet two pumpkin_flowersbig storage boxes that say “Fall Décor” on them. In my dream last night I came home from somewhere and saw that Dave was putting out Christmas décor in the house (stuff he usually didn’t do anyway – he did outside stuff, not inside stuff). I was just going toward him to tell him no-no-no, honey, not yet,  wrong holiday, when I woke up. I wanted so badly to fall back into that dream and have a conversation with him, to hug him, to kiss him, but alas I couldn’t seem to do it.

My cousin has been so helpful – he’s visited because he had a family wedding to go to over the weekend. I had him work on a TV-cable-tuning-adapter-Tivo problem and he finally, after several hours, one trip to the cable store and multiple phone calls to both Tivo and Cox, to get it fixed for me. He’s moved some things around for me, and he’s very fun company.

I had my first cataract surgery 11 days ago. It was cinchy easy. You’re awake all through it, but it wasn’t scary. It didn’t hurt at all. You can’t actually “see” them do it. My vision out of that new lens is certainly better than it was – brighter colors and more clear – but I can’t wear my old glasses. I wore trifocals, had been for years, and this interim time between now and mid-October when I have the 2nd eye done, is really hard – eye strain and poor vision. A friend finally suggested I buy two pairs of readers, with different magnification and put them together in one glasses frame. I’ve done that. I can barely see close-up stuff through the new lens through the readers. The other eye, well, that one’s awful. Can’t see a thing. I can’t wait for the other surgery. Then I must wait another month before they’ll test my eyes and see whether I need to wear glasses or just readers. I suspect I’ll need glasses for mid and close range. I’m having an awful time reading the computer during this in between time. And music – it’s hard being in choir and barely being able to read the music. My Kindle has an adjustment for type size, so I am able to read that fairly well.

Posted in Salads, on September 21st, 2014.

pea_bacon_panzanella_corn_arugula

I’m a sucker for anything “bread salad” or “panzanella” which means bread salad in Italian. And add bacon to it? Well, I’m in. Because it’s so carb-centric, I try not to give in to eating them very often, but salad was what I wanted for a hot summer night, and this recipe just jumped out at me. And it was ever-so good and pretty on the plate, besides!

My girlfriend Donna was coming over. We had talked about going out to eat dinner, but I decided on a Friday night, a hot Friday night, maybe we should eat in instead, and not battle the restaurant crowds. Besides, we’d have more fun conversing here at my house.

The recipe started out from one at Food52 – called Pea and Bacon Panzanella with Warm Vinaigrette. Well, I decided to improvise a little. I love the addition of fresh corn, cut off the cob, to panzanella. And how can you have a panzanella without any tomatoes? The juice from the tomatoes is also what flavors a panzanella. So I added a couple of small tomatoes too. And I always like some greens. I could have used some Romaine, but arugula sounded good to me, so that’s what I added.

A week or so ago I bought some fresh English peas at Trader Joe’s. We just hardly ever see fresh peas in our markets. They’d been in my refrigerator for over a week and some of them had begun to sprout roots (ya think I let them sit too long?). I dug those out and tossed them away, but I still had plenty left. Yet I wasn’t sure how they were going to taste. I had some peas in the freezer, so I knew if these fresh ones never got tender, I’d toss out the whole thing and use the frozen. The fresh ones  took way too long to get tender, but eventually – after about 10-12 minutes of slowly cooking in butter and then steaming with some water added, they got mostly soft. But I actually think they’d turned to starch. Like corn used to do in the old days – every day you didn’t cook them they got more firm and sometimes you could never get them tender. But the peas were definitely edible and added a different texture component to the salad. Next time I’d just use the frozen.

I had defrosted 4 thick slices of apple-smoked bacon and they were probably the star of the dish. What’s the phrase? Everything tastes better with bacon. Yup! I bought a small sourdough boule and cut it up for the bread. I sprinkled the cubes with seasoned garlic salt and sprayed them with olive oil spray and baked them for about 10 minutes in the oven until they were quite dark on the toasted side. But it was still tender enough in the middle. You don’t want to use bread that gets so hard that you feel like you’re chomping down on a jawbreaker. Better to toast the outsides of the bread and still have it slightly soft in the center.

The dressing was easy enough – it uses just a tiny bit of the bacon fat (what’s left in the pan after you cook up the bacon and pour out any puddles of grease, so there’s just a “slick” of bacon fat(. You add a shallot and later some garlic, then sherry vinegar (stand back and don’t breathe it in – you literally can’t breathe), then you pour it into a jar and whisk in the Poupon mustard and lastly olive oil. I didn’t use EVOO on this because I was convinced you couldn’t tell the difference with all the other flavors hitting your mouth sensors – like the bacon, the corn, the crunchy bread, or even the astringency of the vinegar in the dressing.

With everything ready ahead of time, I didn’t re-warm the salad dressing. Why? I didn’t think the dressing would be all that warm anyway (in the original recipe) since you added a bunch of oil to it and that would have cooled it off to about room temp. I doubt the dressing was even “warm” when poured on the salad.

Anyway, toss everything together and pour in 1/4 cup of dressing first – mostly on the bread if you can do it, then taste. Mine required another 1/4 cup, and it might have been able to handle just a little bit more, but not much. The bacon is put on top along with some fresh mint. Serve immediately! No lollygagging around – put it right on the table and dig in.

What’s GOOD: loved the salad. Be careful and don’t use too much bread – gauge your own appetite – both Donna and I left bread on the plate. I think for an average appetite you’d want to eat about 1 1/2 cups of bread per person. But if you have a husky man eating this, maybe more. Loved all the textures and the bacon was the star. I’d have liked more in it, but there was enough to flavor it all. I might have left a bit more bacon grease in the frying pan to help flavor the dressing some more, but that’s up to you. The dressing makes way more than you’ll use – if you don’t want leftovers, cut the dressing recipe in half.

What’s NOT: only that there is some prep work, but not a whole lot, really. Cut the corn off the cob at the last minute. Don’t overcook the peas. Don’t forget the mint!

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Pea and Bacon Panzanella with Corn & Tomatoes

Recipe By: Adapted from a Food52 recipe, 6/2014
Serving Size: 2 (maybe 3)

3 cups white bread — cubed (stale is fine)
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
Olive oil spray
4 slices bacon — thick sliced (use double if regular bacon)
1/2 cup vinaigrette — (see recipe below)
1 cup frozen peas — rinsed in hot water to defrost
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 ears corn — cut off the cob
2 medium tomatoes — chopped, including all the juices
2 cups arugula — coarsely chopped
1/2 cup mint — finely chopped
VINAIGRETTE SALAD DRESSING:
2 small shallots, peeled and diced
2 large garlic cloves, smashed or finely minced
1/2 cup sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 cup olive oil (may use EVOO if deisred)

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
2. Cut the bread into 1/2-inch cubes. If the bread is fresh and hard to cut, toast it for a few minutes to crisp it up. Place cubes on a sheet pan. Sprinkle with salt and spray with olive oil. Toast in the oven until they’re crisp all the way through, about 8-12 minutes. Taste one to know for sure. They can brown a bit but turn the heat down if they start to burn. Take bread cubes out of the oven and set them aside.
3. Chop up the bacon and cook on medium heat in a medium-sized cast iron pan. When it’s crisped up to your liking, remove bacon and place on a paper towel. Pour out all but 1 teaspoon of the bacon fat (basically leaving behind only an oil slick).
4. To make the vinaigrette, place the pan back on low heat (the pan will still be super hot). Toss in shallots. Stir for one minute, scraping up the bacon goodies. Add garlic. Stir for 30 seconds. Pour in vinegar. Turn up to medium heat and boil for 20 seconds. (Be careful and don’t breathe in the vinegar steam.)
5. Take off the heat and pour mixture into a jar that will hold up to 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Whisk in mustard. Slowly whisk in olive oil. Whisk vigorously until it emulsifies. Set aside.
6. Into a large bowl place the bread cubes and add about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette (stir it vigorously just before measuring). Toss well. Taste it and see whether you need more dressing. If needed, add another 1/4 cup. Letting it sit for 3-5 minutes will help as the liquid soaks in. Add more vinaigrette or salt if necessary. You want the vinaigrette to permeate the bread cubes but they shouldn’t be soggy.
7. Cut the corn off the cobs and add to the salad. Add tomatoes and arugula. Toss again and add more dressing if needed. Taste for seasonings.
8. Garnish with bacon (if you cooked this ahead, put it in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds to heat through) and mint. Eat immediately.

Posted in Soups, on September 19th, 2014.

cantaloupe_gazpacho

Well, I can’t seem to stop blogging. I made this soup the other day and I just had to share it with you. It’s awesome. Trust me.

With a withering cantaloupe on my kitchen counter, I knew I couldn’t eat it all – not even half. Since I made that so-delicious watermelon gazpacho a couple of weeks ago, I was open to using the cantaloupe in a cold soup. I searched on the ‘net and found this recipe. Gazpacho is defined as a cold soup usually made with raw vegetables, but there are variations, obviously. And we mostly know of tomato-based gazpacho. Which is a lot of work unless you use canned tomato juice (which I never really liked – too salty).

I altered the epicurious recipe some from the original because of the comments left by a couple of people. I added rice wine vinegar (not the seasoned type), and used a lot less salt. The recipe calls for some red onion. I had a nice big, fat bulb-ended green onion, so I used that instead. Either would be fine, I’m sure. I used about 1/2 of a fairly big hothouse cucumber (it called for a small whole one). So, use your own judgment about the quantities. I could barely taste the cucumber (nice) and was aware there was some raw onion in it, but it was quite subtle. As you make it, start with less onion, and/or cucumber – you can always add more. Taste as you go. I didn’t feel like going out in the dark to find mint in my garden, so I served it plain. Am sure the mint would have added a nice touch. The flavor is so smooth and just plain “nice.” If I had another cantaloupe right now I’d be making another batch. Do use a RIPE melon.

Just make it, okay?

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Cantaloupe Gazpacho

Recipe By: Adapted by me based on reading comments from the recipe at epicurious
Serving Size: 4

1 medium cantaloupe — (peeled, seeded, chopped) – I used a Tuscan melon
1/2 hothouse cucumber — (peeled, chopped)
2 tablespoons red onion — chopped, or 2-3 green onions (white part)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar (not seasoned)
Thinly sliced fresh mint for garnish

Notes: Will serve more than 4 if serving in 2/3 cup servings.
1. Purée cantaloupe, cucumber, onion, salt until smooth. Add a tablespoon or so of water if the melon doesn’t puree well.
2. With motor running, drizzle in olive oil; season with salt. Serve gazpacho chilled, topped with thinly sliced fresh mint.
Per Serving: 215 Calories; 18g Fat (73.2% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 2g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 248mg Sodium.

Posted in Salads, on September 17th, 2014.

minted_watermelon_feta_salad

A couple of days ago I decided I needed to do some administrative housekeeping for the blog. There were a lots of photos from the last couple of months. Some I’d meant to update on the blog – photos from a long time ago (pictures that were barely worthy of posting). I keep all the photos (the ones you see and the ones that I start with, the mega-pixel ones that I crop and adjust to fit within this blog width, etc.) but every few months I transfer them off to CDs.

Anyway, I’d taken a photo of this salad and was going to update it here on the blog and realized that technically speaking I’d never actually posted the RECIPE. I’d included a link to a Martha Stewart page, which I discovered isn’t even THERE anymore. So, obviously I needed to give you this post because this salad is one of my Favs. It’s so incredibly easy. It’s seriously delish and off the charts when watermelon is in season. My DH adored this salad – it has the sweet (watermelon) and the savory (feta cheese) and the hint of mint. Do use fresh mint. I mentioned it last week when I told you about what I’ve eaten lately. I don’t even use a recipe – you can adjust it to  your tastes – it’s just watermelon, feta crumbled up and some mint. That’s IT.

So, how am I? The last week has been pretty good. I’ve been very, very busy, and as a widow, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t leave me much time to mope around. I’m definitely still grieving, and by saying that it doesn’t mean that I don’t still have plenty of time to consider my new single-ness, my widowhood. I think about that every day. I’m writing this on Monday. Yesterday (Sunday) I was invited to my/our son’s home (actually his sister-in-law’s) for dinner. I had a lovely evening with them and a delicious dinner of Pasta Bolognese. And when I got in the car to drive home, well, it was dark, of course, and I just remembered all the times Dave and I had driven home from their home. It made me cry. Sometimes the car is where I cry. There was no one to hear me. I wasn’t crying so hard I couldn’t drive, but I just re-lived good memories, but they still, at this point in my healing, make me sad. I wanted Dave to be beside me in the car.

I’d taken a bottle of Chianti for the dinner. Before I went, I’d gone down into the wine cellar and looked over the choices in the Italian section. There weren’t a lot, actually, but one was a gift and I knew Darci, who had given it to us in 2006, wouldn’t have chosen a blah or cheap wine. It was wonderful. Dave had written notes on the back label – the fact that it was a gift from Darci in 2006. I enjoyed it and had some with dinner. I wished Dave had been there at the table. He’d have been all-over that wine, talking about it. It had no harsh edges at all. It was 11 years old, which is probably OLD for a Chianti. In the car, he and I would have been talking about the dinner, about the antics of our grandson, Vaughan, and his cousin Sebastian, about Julian’s Bolognese and Janice’s fabulous beet salad that often graces their dinner table. The two boys have just started school, so there was some discussion about that. Vaughan has just lost two teeth (his first) and was visited by the international tooth fairy. He’s received Bermuda dollars and Israeli shekels. He feels quite special that he’s being visited by an international tooth fairy. Dave and I would have chuckled over that part. I’ve promised Karen I’ll dig around in my travel drawer and find the big envelope of international money I have so she can be prepared when he loses his next tooth. I know I have some Egyptian money, some Turkish too.

So, I cried. And felt sorry for myself. Which is altogether normal. But I just tried to change the subject in my head. Thinking about this week. About the things I need to do today. I’m having cataract surgery this week, and again a month from now on the other eye. My friend Cherrie has broken a bone in her foot. She was going to take care of me, maybe with me even staying at their house overnight, but she can barely get around, so my friend Joan is taking me. These days cataract surgery is so easy – a few hours after the surgery (back at home) I will remove the patch (to use special drops) and at that point I can leave the patch off, except at night (so I don’t accidentally nudge my eye somehow). I’m participating in a clinical trial for eye drops that are supposed to enhance healing. I’m using these drops every day, twice a day. Then I have 3 other drops that must be used 4x a day. I may be receiving the placebo – I’ll never know. But for the participation, I get $800. I have to make 4 extra visits to the eye clinic to do this. But hey, that’s many really nice dinners out. And once I’m done with both surgeries, I may be able to not wear glasses the rest of my life! Since I’ve worn them since I was about 18, that’s pretty darned special. I may have to wear readers.

My weekend was spent at our church nearly the entire time at a choir retreat. It was grueling. I don’t know exactly how many hours we rehearsed music – probably about 11 hours, I think. My voice is still raspy today. It started Friday night at 5:30 and ended on Sunday at 1:30. Food was provided for Friday dinner, 2 lunches, plus snacks. I’m just glad it’s over with!

So, back to this salad. Do make it. Do use really tasty, ripe watermelon. If you open the watermelon and it’s somewhat blah, don’t bother – this salad won’t be all that good. The recipe is already listed on my Favs list, but I’ll now update the link so it actually comes to THIS post. And I’m giving you the MasterCook files and a pdf.

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Minted Watermelon and Feta Salad

Recipe By: Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Living, 7/08
Serving Size: 4

2 1/2 pounds red watermelon — seedless
2 ounces Feta cheese — crumbled
1/2 teaspoon Maldon salt
3 tablespoons fresh mint — sliced

1. Using a sharp knife, cut off rinds from watermelons. (You should have a total of 2 pounds peeled fruit.) Quarter each melon, and then cut into 3-inch-long, 1/4-inch-thick slices. (Or cut into any shapes you’d prefer.) Arrange slices on a serving platter.
2. Crumble the feta over watermelon. Sprinkle with salt and mint, and serve immediately.
Per Serving: 39 Calories; 3g Fat (69.0% calories from fat); 2g Protein; 1g Carbohydrate; trace Dietary Fiber; 13mg Cholesterol; 426mg Sodium.

Posted in Beef, Lamb, on September 12th, 2014.

mini_greek_style_meat_loaves

Dinner needed in a hurry? This is a great make-ahead meal that requires very little time in the oven. The salad with cucumber provides some vegetables and the Greek tzasiki-type sauce on the meat just makes it perfect.

A couple of weeks ago I spent the weekend with daughter Sara and her family. And Sara wanted to spend part of Sunday doing some make-ahead meals for her family. Both of the kids are in sports, so weeknight mealtimes have to be jammed into what little time Sara can carve out of the late afternoon or evening. Sabrina drives herself mostly, but John the younger sibling is just 13, so he must be delivered and picked up and often John Sr. stays and watches his practices. Anyway, this is one of the meals we put together and Sara was kind enough to give me a portion so I could make it meat_loaves_ramekinsonce I got home. I baked mine in 2 ramekins (just easier for my single portion).

The recipe came from Cooking Light. Since making this Sara and I both agreed on a couple of things: (1) we would switch the amount of lamb and beef – we both wanted a more lamb flavor; (2) the baking time was not enough. So the recipe below has been changed. We also used full fat yogurt, but you don’t have to. We also thought that if the meat loaf was just slightly bigger, we could have eaten just one, so if I did this again, I’d do just that – I’d mound the meat loaves in the muffin tin or ramekin. You’d need to up the baking time if you did that. Lamb is rich, so halving the 2-meat loaf portion would cut down the calories significantly. The original recipe called for 10 ounces of beef and 5 ounces of lamb. That’s been switched, just so you know.

The other problem I had was that the meat loaf wasn’t really done well enough at 7 minutes baking and 3 minutes broiling. I did another 3 minutes of broil, and still the meat was really rare when I ate it (note blood-rare juice coming out of the left meat loaf in the photo). So I’ve upped the baking time to 9 minutes and 3+ minutes broiling. Do check the internal temp if you can – it should be about 160-165°F. The other things could be that pressing the meat into the muffin tin allows contact on the sides with the meat – maybe done that way it cooks in the shorter time. Just use a meat thermometer and gauge accordingly. In ramekins they didn’t quite touch the sides, so that may be why they weren’t quite so “done.”

The sauce was easy enough to make – it’s the standard kinds of ingredients for tzasiki sauce and was made ahead. On the recipe below I’ve also included instructions for freezing the meat – make them into mounds that will fit in a muffin tin or ramekin, place on a parchment or plastic wrap lined baking sheet and freeze, then package them for longer freezer storage.

If you added vegetables to the salad (it already has cucumber in it, but you could add bell pepper, for instance) you’d have a complete meal with the meat loaves, sauce and the salad.

What’s GOOD: these were tasty. Not necessarily off the charts, but not every meal can be that way, anyway. I would like them better next time with more lamb, hence the change in the recipe below. They were certainly easy to make and very quick for a weeknight dinner – providing the meat loaves were defrosted. The sauce is really good – don’t skimp on that part as I think it makes the dish.
What’s NOT: nothing, really. Altogether a good dish and easy.

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Mini Greek-Style Meat Loaves with Arugula Salad

Recipe By: Adapted slightly from Cooking Light, May 2013
Serving Size: 4

5 ounces ground sirloin
10 ounces ground lamb
1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/3 cup red onion — grated or VERY finely minced
4 teaspoons chopped fresh mint
4 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/8 teaspoon salt — divided
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves — minced
1 large egg — lightly beaten Cooking spray
YOGURT-FETA SAUCE:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt, full-fat — or use nonfat if preferred
2 ounces feta cheese — crumbled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice — divided
SALAD & DRESSING:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 cups arugula leaves — [or combo with spinach]
3/4 cup cucumber — (1/4-inch-thick) diagonally sliced, seeded, peeled

NOTES: If you want to make these ahead to freeze, form into shapes that will fit into a muffin tin or ramekins, place on a plastic-wrap lined baking sheet & freeze solid. Then package and seal for longer-term storage. Sauce cannot be frozen. Each serving is 2 of these patties.
1. Preheat oven to 450°.
2. MEAT: Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon mint, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, allspice, and next 3 ingredients (through egg). Press meat mixture into 8 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. (if you have more empty muffin cups, fill that half full with water during the baking.) Bake at 450° for 8-9 minutes. Turn broiler to high; broil 3 minutes. If top isn’t starting to brown, continue on broil for another minute. If using an instant-read thermometer, bake until the center of the meat loaf is about 160°-165°F which will still be just past pink in the middle. Cook longer if you prefer it more well done.
3. SAUCE: Combine yogurt, feta, 1 tablespoon juice, 1 teaspoon mint, and 1 teaspoon thyme in a mini food processor; pulse 10 times to combine.
4. SALAD: Combine 1 tablespoon juice, olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and pepper in a bowl; stir. Add arugula and cucumber; toss.
Per Serving: 463 Calories; 34g Fat (66.4% calories from fat); 26g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 147mg Cholesterol; 534mg Sodium.

Posted in Uncategorized, on September 9th, 2014.

When I mentioned last week that I’ve been fixing some of my old, tried and true recipes, I thought I’d just tell you what those have been. I haven’t made all these in the last week, but over the last 2-3 months, really. There’s one new recipe near the bottom. I’m not writing up a post about it – it was really good, King Arthur’s Classic Peach Cobbler. I liked it.

Thank you, to all of you who have left comments or sent me email notes. Your very kind compliments warm my heart and lift my grieving spirits. Today, as I write this, I’m feeling pretty well. On that grief-scale of 1-10, I’m at about 5 1/2, I guess. Maybe a 6. I had a bad patch a week or so ago and sunk down into the abyss, but after several days I crawled back up into normal-ness again. I functioned – I went to things, kept appointments, but in between I was wretched. Crying for no particular reason. And it lasted for days. I cooked because I had to, and made things to take to gatherings because I’d promised I would. This grief thing is so very unpredictable. Someone told me the other night that grief experts say the 2nd year is the worst. Oh my, I can’t imagine it being worse. Heaven help me if that’s true!

I’m busy, which is a very good thing. I need to be busy. I actually sat outside on the patio last night and ate dinner. I turned up my Sonos speakers in the house, tuned into the Pandora channel I created with classical music, mostly by John Rutter. Lots of choral music comes up on the channel that keeps evolving when I tell Pandora I like a particular piece of music.

Here in Southern California we’ve had very hot weather this summer – so hot that 13 out of every 14 nights when I’m ready to eat dinner it’s still in the 80s outside with very high humidity, and that’s too hot for me. I had left overs from the dinner I did the other night when I invited 9 women friends over, most of them widows. We had a very nice time that night. I started the dinner right at sunset and God granted a lovely one that night. My new outdoor patio and kitchen looked lovely bathed in the soft light and candles, along with some regular lights too. I’ll post photos of the kitchen one of these days. I promised I’d do that and I need to honor my promises, right?

Minted Watermelon and Feta Salad – so refreshing, while watermelon is still in season.

Watermelon Gazpacho – I just posted this last week, but I’ve made another batch of it. Love this stuff.

White Sangria with Tuacaso refreshing! It’s great for a warm summer evening. I served this at the dinner.

Creamy Garlic Blue Cheese Dressing – my old standby salad dressing that I go back to over and over and over again.

Garlic VIP Dressing – my other go-to salad dressing. I made this for the dinner the other night and served it over mixed greens (sturdy type) with cauliflower bits, Feta and toasted almonds.

Marinated Tomatoes – when tomatoes are in season, this is a favorite. Looks pretty too.

Meyer Lemon Grains Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese – such a great salad to take to a potluck lunch or dinner.

Pasta a la Puttanesca – this was my main dish for my guests for the dinner the other night. I served the pasta hot with the Puttanesca sauce, room temp, on top.

French Hamburgers – Julia Child’s recipe. Such good comfort food.

Syrian Pita Bread Salad – I took this to a potluck on Labor Day. It’s a favorite of mine (thank you, Joanne, again, for that wonderful recipe!).

Garlic Green Beans – these are a regular now. I can’t tell you how many of my family and good friends now claim it as their own too. SO easy.

Purple Plum Torte – this was the one from the New York Times.

Dario’s Olive Oil Cake – a real favorite with 1 1/2 whole oranges in it and made solely with good EVOO, pine nuts and rosemary.

King Arthur’s Classic Peach Cobbler – I made little tiny cobbler biscuits for the topping because I knew the women would take small portions, so everyone got a little bitty sugar-topped biscuit.

Chocolate Syrup – I make it in a double batch so it’s always on my refrigerator shelf. Ice cream is so comfort food for me when I crave a little bit of sweet, I top it with this syrup and a few chopped nuts.

See, I told you my old recipes are what I’m cooking lately. I’m still augmenting my diet with ready-made food, something I generally (in the past) just didn’t do. I had Trader Joe’s frozen Chicken Tikka Masala the other night and it was delicious. The link is to my recipe, which is wonderful, but since I didn’t feel like cooking, heating up TJ’s tray was great. I’ll be back in a few days with pictures of my kitchen and patio. Tonight I’m having my DH’s and my bible study group here at my house – that’s why I baked 2 desserts the other night – knowing I’d have left overs. So I don’t have to make or bake anything today. I have peach cobbler and the orange olive oil cake to serve.

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