Friday Randomness (belated…)

Graduation Invitation
Isn’t that a cute Graduation Invite, for a proud parent to send out to invite her friends and family to show off her daughter, and celebrate said daughter’s accomplishment in school? Yes, it is. See how cute, the picture of her Kindergarten graduation? Her official Senior photo (in my great aunt’s pearls), her other, casual Senior photos? Sigh. The thing is, Maya doesn’t want a graduation party. She doesn’t want to hang out with a bunch of Ted and my friends, feeling self-conscious because everyone is looking at her. She and her friends will have been partying at the ‘All Knighter’ (They’re the Knights), and she’d rather go from party to party at her friend’s houses. I don’t blame her. But still, I’m a little disappointed. I have attended parties for several of my friends’ kids, and I enjoyed them. I enjoyed admiring the graduating senior, hearing about their plans going forward, all of that. I want my friends to enjoy that coming to see my child. So here I am, letting it go. LETTING IT GO. It’s her graduation, not mine. I’ll have a party later in the summer with my friends, and we will have a lovely time. They will admire my child, not because it is her graduation, but because they love her, and they love me. So there.

Friday afternoon, our front door lock broke. Always on a Friday, right? Of a holiday weekend? That’s when the kid comes down with a fever (though generally they wait until the doctor’s office is closed), the stove/air conditioner/hot water heater goes out, that kind of thing. All things you want fixed NOW, and you will have to wait until Monday. I’ve heard that what duct tape doesn’t fix, WD-40 will, I tried oiling the dead bolt. No help. (The issue was that the dead bolt would only come out about 1/5 of the way, not the full extended way.) So I took the door knob thing apart (two little screws were all that was needed), figured out what was wrong, then went to look in my ‘fix everything around the house’ book that my Grandmother gave us years ago. No help at all. None. So I took the pieces to my local Ace hardware store, hoping that they could either tell me how to fix it, or sell me a replacement. Nope. However, at 4:40 in the afternoon, they gave me a recommendation to a local locksmith. Across town. So I called them and asked them if they could maybe stay open until I got there. They helpfully said yes. Across town I sped, thankfully against the afternoon traffic. I got there at 4:55, before they even had to stay late. The locksmith took one look and said, “Nope, can’t fix it. The part that’s broken, they don’t sell just that part.” So we looked at the several options. One was $15, but very temporary. One was $300, and required us installing the new door stuff ourselves. The fact that I call it ‘door stuff’ should inform you about how good I am at this stuff. Ted is better at it than I am, but he’s not a handyman, he’s an academic. The third option was to pick a different brand of hardware (aka, door stuff), which would be cheaper on the parts, but would mean drilling and painting our stupid door. Blech. So here I am, it’s 5:05 on Friday of a three-day weekend, and I’m frustrated. Finally, the locksmith said, “There’s another option. I can remove the broken part, which isn’t necessary. The broken part, being broken, is getting in the way of the rest of the mechanism. It will certainly get you through the weekend, and it may even work long term.” OK, I’m in. Why couldn’t he have suggested this to begin with, I wondered. However, all I said was, “How much?” Free. I love that price. I said no, he should be paid for his time and expertise, and he said no. So he took out the broken part (which required some expertise to do), and I took it home and put it back together. The door knob is looser, doesn’t fit just the same anymore, but it works. It works well, locks properly, and was free. So I went on FB and yelp and gave full props to the locksmith, hoping maybe I could pay them back in some way. If the solution falls apart and it turns out that we need something more, they’ve earned my business and I’ll go back to get a long term solution.

This morning, Maya had a job working for one of her teachers (who has a successful side business, Pinot Days, very wine related), so while she went and took care of that, Ted and I went and ran errands. We went and picked up the badges earned by Maya’s Girl Scout troop, then to breakfast at a place we haven’t been to before. It was tasty. It was a little expensive for a semi-fast food breakfast place, but the quality of the food was good. We liked it. Then we went to the farmers’ market and got the essentials…strawberries, nectarines, and eggs. We ran a few more errands, then came home, and I took a delicious nap. Saturdays can be lovely indeed.

The other day I went to the video store…we still have a video store we love to try to keep open. I picked up a DVD, ‘Labor Day’, with Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin. For some reason, I knew nothing about the film, and thought it might be a romantic comedy. It wasn’t. It was closer to a love story. Josh Brolin is an escaped convict, convicted of murdering his wife and child, who forces his way into the home of Kate Winslet and her young teen son. He’s camping out for a few days. The pace is slow, the acting superb, the story not quite as dramatic as you might want, but at the same time, because of that, it seems more real. We really liked it a lot.

I’m reading the new ‘David Sedaris’ book, borrowed from our library. I like it a lot, though I can’t plow through it as quickly as needed for the online rental. We’ll see how I do, if I finish in time.

In other news, I tried a new quinoa recipe. YUM. So good. I’ll post it here soon. It had pickled onions, nectarines, and arugula. Really good.

Enjoy your weekend.

Spanish Spaghetti with Olives

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Speaking of cooking, check out this recipe Ted found yesterday. I mainly cook during the week, and Ted mainly cooks on weekends, a habit leftover from when he had a more 9-5 schedule and didn’t get home until late. Now he sometimes works on weekends, sometimes works very early mornings, so I guess it doesn’t matter when we cook what, but we’ve stuck with the schedule, and it works for us.

One thing Ted likes to do when he’s trying to decide what to make is to ask his phone. He says, “What’s for dinner?” and google gives him some ideas. I’m not tech savvy like that, so I don’t know whether that’s an app, or whether it’s because he follows food stuff on google+, but anyway, it works. Last night he asked, and this recipe came up, after artichoke dip. Artichoke dip for dinner doesn’t sound so great, does it? (Oh hell, it does sound good, who am I kidding?)

So he whipped this up for dinner last night, while I was watching a badly edited ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ on TV. Wow, really tasty. Maybe not if you don’t like olives and capers, but we like both quite a bit, so it was a winner for us. This one will be printed and put in my recipe book. I liked the mellow flavor of the sauce, with the bit of heat from the red pepper flakes, and the saltiness from the olives and capers. Give it a try, it’s good.

Spanish Spaghetti with Olives

  • 8 ounces thin spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt*
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron threads (optional)**
  • 8 ounces extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 2/3 cups lower-sodium marinara sauce (such as Amy’s)
  • 2 ounces pimiento-stuffed olives, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Stir in oregano, celery salt, red pepper, black pepper, and saffron, if desired. Crumble beef into pan; cook 5 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble. Stir in marinara sauce, olives, sherry, capers, and 3 tablespoons parsley. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

3. Add spaghetti to sauce mixture. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon parsley.

* We didn’t have any celery salt, and it seemed a small difference and not worth purchasing just for one recipe, so Ted ignored this.

** We did have a bit of saffron, but Ted omitted it from the recipe, and I’m glad, because saffron is expensive, and I doubt you’d taste it with the red pepper flakes, capers, olives, and marinara sauce. I’m more a fan of saffron when I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.

Jacques’s Pommes de Terre mont d’Or

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Last night was the season premier of season 4 of Downton Abbey. I’d spent the last few days getting caught up and ready, re-watching season 3. Gah, the stories, the clothes, the scenery, and…the food. The food is oftentimes gorgeous. So Ted decided that in honor of our season premier, we should have a somewhat extravagant dinner. He chose roast beef, caramelized carrots, and Pommes de Terre Mont d’Or, which he found in our cookbook, ‘Julia and Jacques’. I made the Pommes de Terre Mont d’Or (mountain of gold potatoes). It’s made of potatoes, eggs, and cheese, and is light and fluffy, much like a souffle. Truly elegant, and truly delicious. Not difficult at all, and worth a bit of time.
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Jacques’s Pommes de Terre Mont d’Or

  • 4 cups Mashed Potatoes, left over or fresh
  • 3 large eggs*
  • 2/3 cups grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese**
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Butter a shallow baking dish or casserole. Put the potatoes in the work bowl of a food processor, then add the eggs, about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese, and salt and pepper. Process briefly, about 10 seconds, to whip all the ingredients together.

Scoop the potatoes into the prepared gratin dish and smooth with a rubber spatula. Scatter the remaining cheese over the top and place on a baking dish (in case of spills) in the lower part of the oven.

Bake about 30 to 35 minutes, until the top of the gratin is crusty and golden***.

* Jacques says that to make the dish raise extra high, use an extra egg. So I used 4 instead of 3. Delicious and very fluffy.
** We went Gruyere, which is, in my opinion, nicer than Swiss.
*** This step took more like 40 to 45 minutes, but that may be my baking dish, as I don’t have a smaller one.

Nance’s Pasta with Butternut Squash, Sausage, and Spinach


(kinda blurry picture of delicious pasta)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I made a pasta recipe that was basically a mac and cheese recipe with some sausage and butternut squash, and my bloggy friend Nance commented about her own sausage and butternut squash recipe.  I wasn’t in love with my recipe, as it was too much like mac & cheese, and I love my own mac & cheese recipe.  But Nance’s recipe sounded lovely, so I decided to try it.  And boy, I’m so very glad I did.  It’s a winner.  Maya’s first bite, she said, “make sure you try a bite with butternut squash and sausage, because they’re delicious together!”  I agree.  Fie to Rachel Ray and her recipe.  I’ll take either mac & cheese, or Nance’s pasta.  It’s so darned good, you’ll thank me for posting it, I mean it.

Nance’s Pasta with Butternut Squash and Sausage
1 butternut squash
1 lb sausage (whatever your favorite is)
1 lb farfalle pasta
1 package, bunch, whatever of fresh spinach
olive oil
salt & pepper

Dice squash, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake for approx 35 minutes at 425 degrees (until soft and maybe a bit caramelized).

Brown sausage, and cook farfalle until it’s cooked as you like.

In a big bowl, first put spinach (so it will wilt when you add hot ingredients), then browned sausage, then roasted butternut squash, then hot cooked pasta. Add freshly ground black pepper and Parmesan cheese. (Nance says Asiago, but we didn’t have any, and I pink puffy heart good Italian Parm, so that’s what we used.)

One more time, this is DELICIOUS. So good. If you’re vegetarian, I have a friend who says there’s a wonderful vegan sausage at Whole Foods, though I can’t remember the name. Though if you’re vegan, that means no cheese, which makes my heart hurt a little.

Friday Randomness

I’m thinking perhaps it may be time for NaBloPoMo around here. Maybe a good idea to try to challenge myself to post every day, because crap, I feel less inclined than ever to do so. It’s not that I don’t get any pleasure from it…it’s that when I post all of the time, my brain works that way, and little things in my life inspire me. However, when I don’t post often, my brain doesn’t work that way, so I forget my blog is even here for days at a time. Not what I want from this space. So, let’s see what happens, shall we?

So, what can I tell you? Well, Maya is taking Journalism this year, and had her first byline in the school paper. An excellent review of the Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes concert she saw in September. I’ll admit to you that I was a bit nervous about her going into San Francisco with a friend to see the concert, with no adults. She’s a good kid. Her friend is a good kid. I don’t really worry about them doing something dangerous or wrong (though of course good kids do those things, too, but you can’t think about that when you’re deciding whether to let your 17 year old go out with her friends). But I do worry about some idiot doing something evil and her not being ready to deal with it, or perhaps her getting into a situation where no one would know what to do. These things happen once in awhile. But they took BART, they had a GREAT time, and her picture was even in a local newspaper. Whew.

I tried a new recipe that I’ll call ‘Mimi Bars’. My friend Cherry told me about them, so even though it’s not HER recipe, I’m tempted to call them ‘Cherry Bars’, but for obvious reasons, that might lead one to believe there are actual cherries involved, which in this case, there are not. I’ll share the recipe, if you promise to take your insulin first, because O.M.Gosh*, these things are SWEET. The sweetest thing I’ve ever had, perhaps. Yummy, though.

Mimi bars

9×13 glass baking dish.
1 & 1/2 cubes butter,
1 Duncan Heinz butter cake,
1 package kraft caramels (unwrapped)
1/3 cup milk
1 & 1/2 cups chocolate chips.

Preheat oven 350°.
melt butter in pot on stove, turn off stove.
Add cake mix.
Stir til stiff.

Press half of this mixture onto baking dish, bake 8 minutes.
Melt caramels & milk on stove.
Sprinkle choc chips on top of cake as soon as removed from oven, drizzle caramel.
Crumble remaining cake mixture on top.
Bake 11-13 minutes.
Let cool overnight and cut!

A few tips.

1st, maybe try lining your pan with foil or parchment or something, because when that caramel gets cold in the fridge overnight, it’s difficult to cut from the pan. Might be easier to remove it from the pan, and THEN cut it.

2nd, Cherry said if you eat these BEFORE cooling overnight, they just don’t rock for some reason. Conversely, I can tell you if you try them right out of the fridge, they’re so-so. However, if you cool them overnight in the fridge (wait, the recipe doesn’t actually say they have to go in the fridge…perhaps I made that part up?), and then bring them back to room temp, they’re amazing. Really good. But you only need one. One is enough. You will very likely not go back for more.

What else…I’m writing this on Halloween, and it’s 8:00pm, and we have had a total of ZERO trick-or-treaters. Living in a townhouse/condo complex sucks. There are 4 kids in our complex who are of age (though young), yet they do what we did…pack the kids up and take them to a neighborhood with sidewalks and houses. What goes around comes around. We didn’t take Maya trick-or-treating here, and so we don’t get any. Sigh. I want to see a cute pre-schooler in a lion costume or something.

Anyone trying out the new TV season? Since we have free cable right now, I’ve been giving it a shot. My favorite shows are not new…Parenthood and The Good Wife, but I’ve also tested The Crazy Ones, The Michael J. Fox Show, and Mom. Meh all around. If I’m bored and in the mood to watch TV over reading a book, I’ll watch any of them, in this order:

  1. Mom ~ Allison Janney is great, and so far I’ve gotten a few laughs out of it.
  2. The Crazy Ones ~ A show with Buffy is going to be good, right? And Mork? But it’s just OK. I kind of like it, but if I miss it, I don’t care.
  3. The Michael J. Fox Show ~ So far, I’ve seen 3 or 4 episodes, but the only reason to watch is being bored, not wanting to read your book (happens sometimes when I’m tired), and the only other thing to watch is stupid reality TV. I like Michael J. Fox. He was really good on The Good Wife. I’m not convinced the writing is that great.

Maybe I have something else to say, I’m not sure. But it just occurred to me that if I’m going to try to write every day in November, I’d better save a little something for tomorrow, right?

Good Advice

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Many years ago, I received what I consider to be very good advice. I was talking to my boss. Ted and I had been together for 7 years…it was the anniversary of our first date, which we had always celebrated. But now we were married…so should we still celebrate our first date? So I mentioned to my boss that we had always celebrated our date-a-versary, but it felt strange now that we were married. He said something like, “Life can be hard, and sometimes is very difficult. We should celebrate life’s joys whenever we can.” I liked that advise. I still like that advise. Life is indeed sometimes very difficult. It can throw things at you that are not fair. Life is also, at the same time, wonderful and full of many happy times and moments, and these should be celebrated.

In the spirit of celebrating the joys in life, we celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. Ted was born in Ontario, and his family moved to our little city when he was 1, maybe 18 months. According to Canadian Law, he is a citizen, even though he hasn’t lived there in many a decade, and relinquished his citizenship as a child.

In years past, I’ve tried making several different recipes for roast turkey breast. They were all good, but somehow, seemed just a bit dry. This year, Ted mentioned that he actually prefers dark meat, which somehow I never knew before. So I did a search, and found this recipe for stuffed turkey legs. I went to the store, where they had turkey thighs and drumsticks, but only separately, not still connected. So I bought the thighs, which the butcher said would be much better than the drumsticks. Then there’s the sausage. We don’t have boudin sausage around here (I think it’s a Louisiana thing), and the butcher at the grocery store didn’t know which of what they have might be the same. I decided to use calabrese sausage, based on the color, which was closer to white than the red of the other sausages in the case. I had read that some boudin sausage is white. Also, the butcher said he thought it was the best tasting sausage they sold, which reaffirmed my decision.

Confession, I’ve never made homemade stuffing before. There are many restrictions in the family (some vegetarian, some who don’t eat pork), which means no sausage, no bacon, etc. So we generally go with something similar to Stove Top, which is actually pretty good, though perhaps sometimes a little gloppy. This stuffing, however, is not gloppy, and is full of flavor and really delicious.

Boudin Stuffed Turkey Leg
Makes 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 boneless turkey legs
  • 10 feet butcher’s twine

Boudin Stuffing

  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup celery, cut in small dice
  • ½ cup carrots. cut in small dice
  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans (or candied pecans)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 pound spicy boudin, removed from casing
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 6 slices white sandwich bread, diced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat a large saucepan over medium heat with the cooking oil. Add vegetables, pecans, garlic and dry spices in the cooking oil, and cook until vegetables are just translucent. Add boudin and stir. Once boudin begins to stick to the pan, add chicken stock and bring to a simmer.When stock simmers, adjust seasoning and add diced bread. Allow to cool. (At this point, mixture can be stored up to 4 days.)

To stuff the legs: Lay the de-boned leg quarters out flat, skin side down. Divide the boudin stuffing into two portions, and spread the portions evenly onto each leg. Roll the meat up jelly-roll style, keeping as much stuffing inside as possible.

Cut the butchers twine into 12-inch pieces. Tie the pieces of twine around the stuffed turkey legs every few inches to keep them rolled tight. Once the turkey legs have been tied, season them with salt and coarse black pepper.

Roast the legs in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for approximately 40 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

The result? I think this is the best Canadian Thanksgiving yet. The sausage was delicious, the turkey moist and flavorful. Really, really good.

Meatless Monday – Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Skillet

Not my photo…it came with the recipe.

I saw this recipe online a week or so ago, and it appealed to me…I love Mexican food, and any chance to put a dollop of sour cream and another of guacamole on top of something warm and cheesy is OK by me. We all enjoy butternut squash, and I saw some beautiful and huge ones at the Farmers’ Market yesterday, so I decided to base my recipe on that. It was so huge, I think I only used 1/4 of it for this recipe. I cubed the rest and will use it to make curried pumpkin, for next time Ted makes lamb curry. Mmmm. Lamb Curry.

The result was a delicious and surprisingly light meal. I think this recipe is a keeper. We all got to use our favorite toppings…Ted used hot sauce, Maya sour cream, and me sour cream and guacamole. Yum. I forgot to buy the cilantro. Oh well.

Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchilada Skillet

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 3 cups 1/2 inch diced, peeled butternut squash
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1 can (15 Ounce) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 yellow corn tortillas (taco size), cut into thick strips
  • 1 can (15 Ounce) red enchilada sauce*
  • 1 cup reduced-fat Colby Jack or Mexican cheese, divided**
  • cilantro, guacamole, hot sauce, and/or sour cream, for serving

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large oven-proof skillet. Add onions, garlic, and jalapeno and cook 2-3 minutes until onions become translucent and garlic is fragrant. Add cubed squash, cumin and chili powder and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is slightly tender, 8 to 10 minutes. You want the squash to be fork tender, but not so tender that it starts to fall apart and become mush.

Next add the black beans, corn tortilla pieces, and can of enchilada sauce and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium-low and sprinkle in ½ cup of cheese. Stir again and simmer for a few minutes until everything is nice and melted.

Turn your oven broiler to high. Sprinkle an additional ½ cup of cheese over the top of the enchilada mixture and place in the oven under broiler for 3-5 minutes until cheese melts and tortilla edges become a bit golden brown. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Serve with sour cream, cilantro, guacamole, or hot sauce!

* I made my own sauce, as I don’t find the canned stuff trustworthy. For green sauce perhaps, but not for the red sauce.
** I may have used more than 1 cup. Perhaps closer to 1 ½ cups. Mmmm. Cheese.

Cockeyed Cake

I have a box of my mom’s things in my room. Letters and things like that, mostly. In amongst the letters and photos and old address books, I recently found a little paperback cookbook that I remember when I was a kid, “The I Hate to Cook Book”, which is full of really easy recipes. I think I’ve only ever made one, “Cockeyed Cake”. We received a copy of the cookbook when we got married, from our friend Joyce, who was one of our roommates in Fairbanks, Alaska. Sadly, that cookbook was destroyed when our stupid pipes from the shower leaked into our kitchen, which we’ve discussed here before.

It’s pretty much the easiest chocolate cake recipe I’ve ever made, with the possible exception of a mix. And with a mix, you usually have the risk of egg shells in your cake. This recipe is eggless, you get all of the moistness from vegetable oil. I’m not sure why it’s called “Cockeyed Cake”. When I was a kid I thought it was because you make a little cockeyed face in the pan, with two eyes and a mouth. Now I just wonder if it’s a way of saying that it’s a wacky recipe, what with the no eggs, and the use of vinegar.

The recipe makes one layer of cake. Just a little cake to pull out if you have company or something. Like if the Costanzas come over, and you know you’d better serve cake after dinner. Or perhaps you just want some chocolate in the middle of the afternoon. If you keep cocoa powder in your house, you probably have the ingredients in your pantry (Oh, to have a pantry! Townhouse living is spatially challenged). I kind of remember our elementary school making a cake that was very similar, and because it was so moist, some kids liked to smash it up into a ball and throw it at people in the cafeteria. I didn’t do that, because I’d prefer to eat my chocolate, and besides, I was always a good girl, not the one to throw things at school. When I was growing up, we didn’t frost it. We just sprinkled it with powdered sugar and ate it that way, which is how they served it at school. I don’t know if I could get away with that around here. Maya loves frosting, and while Ted isn’t as much of a frosting fan as her, he loves things to be extra chocolatey. So on Sunday I decided to make the cake, and I wanted Maya to make it with me. Relive my childhood and all of that. I’ll admit, it’s a little messy mixing the ingredients in the pan. I think perhaps I’d rather use a bowl. But I don’t remember it being messy when I was a kid. I don’t know if that’s because I was more adept, we had a bigger pan, or I just didn’t care about messes, because, duh, I was a kid.

Next time you have a craving for some chocolate cake, just know you could be eating this pretty darned quickly. And if you have some chocolate frosting laying around, this is a perfectly good way to eat that, too.

Cockeyed Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups sifted flour
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup cold water


Sift flour, then resift into greased baking pan along with the cocoa, baking soda, sugar and salt. Make 3 holes in the mixture, preferably (by me) in the shape of a face.
Pour oil in one, vinegar in one, and vanilla in the third. Pour cold water over all. Beat until nearly smooth and no flour shows.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Frost or dust with powdered sugar when it’s completely cool. That may be the hardest part, waiting for it to cool so you can frost it. Maybe that’s why we didn’t bother when I was growing up.

And now, prepare yourself for the worst food pic ever. Or maybe not ever, but it’s not good. But it’s what I have, and I don’t feel like one should post a recipe without a photo, esp if that recipe is for cake, right? Here goes.

European Dinner

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Sometimes we like to have what we call “European Dinner”.  What makes it European?  We don’t know.  The mystery of that is part of the charm.  European Dinner can vary, but generally consists of cheese, bread, fruit, and sausage.
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The fruit this time was strawberries, grapes, pear, and figs, all purchased from our local farmers’ markets. I will say that I bought figs twice this week, at different farmers’ markets, and there was a difference in the taste. Perhaps because some were more ripe, I’m not sure.
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The cheese was ‘Bermuda Triangle’ from Cypress Grove, ‘Mt. Tam’ from Cowgirl Creamery, both local creameries. We had a little bit of Laura Chenel Chevre (also local), and a big hunk of Prima Donna, which is described as a Gouda/Parmesan hybrid, imported from Holland. We have some kick ass cheese in California, I gotta say. The chevre was amazing, to my palate, straight on a fig. Really, really good. Mt. Tam is a huge hit around here. The Bermuda Triangle was a bit of a disappointment. I’ve had it before and loved it, but this time, it was just too strong. A very similar cheese, also by Cypress Grove, is ‘Humboldt Fog’, and I think we’ll just stick with that next time. The Gouda? I didn’t realize it was supposed to be so dry and crumbly, so I wasn’t thrilled. There’s some left, so I think I’ll revisit, looking at their website for a bit of guidance for what to do with it.

If you’re ever in the mood for a filling meal that appears light, and makes you feel kind of sophisticated while you’re dining, I highly recommend the European Dinner. This is a good time of year for it, if fruits are still delectable where you are.

1 Stupid Roast Chicken Recipe, 2 Ways

Roast Chicken Recipe-1
Thursdays I deliver Meals on Wheels, as all 2 or 3 of my readers surely know by now. Well, one of the ladies on my route, Trudy, is special and gets a visit most Thursdays. I pull up a chair and we chat for about 10 minutes about what’s been going on since last week, or I help her with her hearing aid, the clock on her stove, picking some earrings for her to wear to her Red Hat Luncheon, etc. Sometimes we look at recipes in the newspaper.  Last Thursday, she had cut this recipe out and was preparing to save it in her file. I read it, and I must admit, it’s the most stupid recipe I’ve ever seen. She cut it out because she likes the spices. I have no beef with the spices. It’s the rest. In case you don’t cook, let me fill you in on my issues with this stupid recipe.  Take a minute to read the recipe, then join me in my griping.

  1. 2 to 3 pound fryer.  I like roast chicken, and I agree, a small one is generally the way to go for best flavor.  But where are you going to find a 2 to 3 lb fryer?  It’s difficult to find one under 4.   That’s the least of my problems, however.
  2. Roast breast side down to keep white meat juicy.  Wait, weren’t you just saying how you like crispy skin?  Breast side down will give moist meat all right, but flabby skin.  You could turn it over 3/4 of the way through, and I’ve seen many recipes that do so.  But this one makes no mention of that.
  3. Roast 1 to 2 hours at 375.  Read that again.  1 to 2 hours.  This is the part that freaked me out the most.  I mean, 1 hour is about right for a 4 lb bird in a 375 degree oven.  But 2 hours?  I don’t know if even my Grandma, who loves her meat so dry that it adheres your teeth to each other and has you reaching for glass after glass of water, or at least, please god, some gravy or cranberry sauce or something, no, not even she would cook a 2 to 3 lb bird for 2 hours.  That’s just stupid.

One last thought…this recipe is supposedly from the editor of Relish magazine.  I found the page from the insert here.  On the left side of the page is a picture with her kissing her son, and she talks about how wonderful it is to buy a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store.  Perhaps, just perhaps, she has never actually roasted a chicken herself.  She just buys the dried out chickens from the grocery store, brings them home, and calls it a day.  So for this article, she took 3 minutes, looked at tips from other recipes, distilled them down into this stupidity, and published it for the world to see.

Quinoa Salad with Oranges


When we were in Portland last month, my step-mom Julie made a wonderful dinner for the family on the night before the party. She had lemon chicken, green salad, pasta salad, quinoa salad, and a lot of patience. I say that because as she was cooking, family kept coming in and telling her things they didn’t like that were included in the recipes she was making. If I were trying to get chicken and three salads on the table, as well as drinks, bread, and so on, for 10 or so people, this would have bugged the crap out of me. She is perhaps used to it, though, as it didn’t seem to phase her a bit. Thankfully, the issues were mainly the green salad, so she was able to handle it by putting avocados and whatever else was offensive on the side. Picky people.

We’re not big quinoa eaters around here, though I think that’s habit more than anything else. Every time I do make it, everyone really enjoys it. I should probably make it more often. This recipe was a surprise to me, because it contains raisins, which Ted hates (though we didn’t chime in on the pickyness and have them omitted, because we’re saintly. Obviously.) But he not only gobbled up his serving of the quinoa, he had seconds, AND he told me that he thought the recipe really needed the raisins. They kind of made it good. Wow. Now I really do enjoy raisins. I like them in raisin bran, I like them in bagels, I like them in rice dishes, I like them in salads. I also like dried cranberries and dried apricots, which are not popular around my house. I live with weird people, don’t I? Good thing they’re so good looking and funny, or I might have to find some dried-fruit living people with whom to spend my time.

Julie photocopied the recipe for me from her cookbook. I don’t know what cookbook it was, or who to credit, aside from my very patient step-mom. I hope you’ll try this recipe, and that you enjoy it. It’s good warm, as it would be if you made it for or with dinner. It’s good room temperature, as if you left it out at a potluck while people were having a glass of iced tea. It’s good cold from the fridge, as if you had some leftover, and decided to eat it for lunch. Delicious.

Quinoa Salad with Oranges

Quinoa Mixture

  • 1/2 cup almonds, slivered or sliced
  • 2 cups stock, or water
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2 oranges, peeled, sliced, and chopped
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 Tblsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tblsp cilantro
  • 1 Tblsp grated orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil


  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 Tblsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground pepper

Toast almonds 4 to 5 minutes in dry skillet, stirring often.

Bring 2 cups stock or water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add quinoa and salt, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes or until tender and almost all liquid is absorbed. Transfer to large bowl. Toss with raisins and oranges.

In a small bowl, mix orange juice, shallots, parsley, cilantro, orange zest, cumin, and coriander. Whisk in oil. Add to the quinoa.**

For dressing: whisk all the ingredients in a bowl, adding the black pepper last.
Pour dressing over the quinoa mixture and toss to coat. Garnish with toasted almonds.

* I’ve made this recipe twice since we were in Portland. The first time it was soupy, so I quickly cooked up another 1/2 cup of quinoa and mixed it in with the recipe. The second time I was making it for a party, so I doubled the Quinoa Mixture portion, but did not double the amount of dressing. That seemed like the perfect amount, but turned out to be dry. So now I’m thinking, if you double the recipe, double the dressing, put in about 1.5 times the regular amount, and then see what happens next.

** This is kind of confusing to me. These are liquid ingredients, and appear to be a dressing on their own. Which you toss with the quinoa and oranges, and then, add a second dressing. I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just incorporate these ingredients in with the dressing ingredients and toss them all together. But I didn’t ask questions and followed instructions. I’d make a good Nazi.

Jocelyn’s Balsamic Vinaigrette

Picture found here. That salad looks mighty good…it’s pear, walnut, greens,
tomatoes, red bell peppers, and feta cheese.

Always one to give credit where credit is due, here’s a recipe for a delicious vinaigrette that I especially like with an herby salad.  Really easy, really good.  Many years ago, in the late 90s, I worked with Cherry and Dorothy (who used to be my blog friends, but Dorothy quit hers, and Cherry blogs even less often that I do, as she works many hours and has 2 little ones….1 of whom is almost 1!  I also worked with Don, who is NOT my blog friend, but he’s a good guy, and was my work partner on projects at that job.   He has a lovely wife, Jocelyn, who is a very good cook.  They had us all over for a party or two back in the day, and she made this dressing for her salad, and we all raved.  I have it in my little album of recipes that I want to keep.  Try it sometime, it’s good.

Balsamic Vinaigrette


  • 3 tblsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tblsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tblsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


    Whisk first 4 ingredients to blend.  Gradually whisk in oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

That’s it.  Enjoy.

Janet’s Banana Bread

(photo found along with recipe, here)

Friday afternoon found me lunching with two of my dear friends, Janet and Katie.  I met J & K way back in Junior College, lo those many, many years ago.  Katie lives just across the Bay in San Francisco, and for some stupid reason we don’t get together as often as we should.  Janet lives in Texas, so her visits are of course precious.  Janet was sent to our neck of the woods last week for business, and was able to make time for lunch with Katie and me.  Yay!  Often when I lunch with Janet &/or Katie, we go to Va de Vi, since they have delicious lamb and tuna tartare and chocolate souffle, and all things yummy.  This time, however, I decided to cook, as Janet has been in a hotel and eating in restaurants all week, and I thought a little home cooked meal might be welcome right about then.

Conversation meandered a bit, and Janet happened to mention that she has a delicious banana bread recipe, very moist, and that she always looks it up online by searching for cinnamon sugar, since the recipe has you dust the bread pan with it, even though she doesn’t include that step.   Well, Sunday morning had me up and about and wondering what to do with myself while Ted and Maya snoozed a bit more.  Then I noticed the 2 very ripe bananas sitting on the counter, and I remembered that we had sour cream in our fridge.  Hmmm.  Perhaps I should try this recipe out?  The key, says Janet, is to fully incorporate the banana and sour cream before adding to the recipe.  Easy enough, I just ran them around in my Cuisinart until they were smooth.  I found the recipe the same way she did, by searching for ‘banana bread sour cream cinnamon sugar’

I only had 2 bananas, which calls for 6, so I made 1/3 of the recipe, which made one large loaf of banana bread. The recipe is called ‘Banana Sour Cream Bread’, which is perhaps descriptive, but not as good, in my mind, as “Janet’s Banana Bread”, so that’s what I’m calling it. Tried a bit for breakfast, and I gotta say, it’s delicious. Very moist and yummy. Thanks, Janet.

Janet’s Banana Bread

  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 (16 ounce) container sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) (I omit, because Ted and Maya don’t like nuts in their baked goods. I know, they’re crazy. If my MIL has some, she’ll (very sensibly) ask, “Where are the nuts?”)


  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease four 7×3 inch loaf pans. In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup white sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  2. In a large bowl, cream butter and 3 cups sugar. Mix in eggs, mashed bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix in salt, baking soda and flour. Stir in nuts. Divide into prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

~ Music to bake banana bread by on a lazy Sunday Morning: Idlewild, Everything But the Girl.

Roasted Butterflied Chicken and Tomatillos

OK, first things first. My celebrity crush is Curtis Stone. We went to San Francisco to have him sign a copy of his cookbook back in ’07, and he was utterly charming. And now he’s engaged to, and has an adorable baby with, Lindsey Price, who played Janet on Beverly Hills 90210 back in the day. It’s like two parts of my world coming together in one beautiful place, and I’ll confess…when I picture Curtis and Lindsey barbequing in the back yard, they’re in the Walsh house. So what?

Anyway, I’m a fan of Curtis on Facebook, and sometimes he puts delicious pictures up, of recipes from his new cookbook. I haven’t bought the new cookbook yet, though I did buy the digital version of one week’s worth of recipes, so I’m not a total jerk. When he posted this picture of Roasted Butterflied Chicken and Tomatillos on Facebook, what could I do but google it? It’s not my fault that Amazon will show you every darned page of a book, or that I have snagit on my computer, so I could just snap pictures of the recipe, paste them into a word document, and print it up. You know what? I’m SO glad I did. This recipe is a winner, and probably worth the price of a cookbook, all on its own. The chicken is both moist and really flavorful. We had it with tortillas, though I didn’t shred the chicken wings or drumsticks, and when Ted ate those, he said they were wonderful on their own. I highly recommend these tortillas, if you can get them. I buy the green chili corn tortilla version, and they’re kick ass.

Roasted Butterflied Chicken and Tomatillos

  • One 4-pound chicken
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and cut in half
  • 1 white onion, halved and cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges, for serving
  • 8 whole wheat flour or corn tortillas, warmed, for serving


  • Preheat onion to 400 degrees F.
  • Using poultry shears, split the chicken open by cutting down one side of the backbone, then cut out and remove the backbone. Place the chicken skin side up on a chopping board. Put your hand on the breastbone and press hard to flatten the chicken. (J’s note: my favorite grocery store has a butcher, who will cut your chicken in half and remove the backbone for you if you’d like, so I just have them do this for me.)
  • Heat a very large cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of the olive oil with the paprika, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Rub the mixture all over the chicken. Place the chicken skin side down in the hot skillet and cook for about 4 minutes, or just until the skin side is golden brown. Transfer the chicken to a large plate. Set the skillet aside.
  • In a large bowl, toss the tomatillos, onions, garlic, and jalapenos with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange half of the tomatillo mixture in the skillet and nestle the chicken on top, skin side up. Scatter the remaining tomatillo mixture around the chicken.
  • Roast for 45 minutes, or until the chicken shows no sign of pink when pierced in the thickest part with the tip of a small sharp knife and the tomatillos are falling apart into the sauce. Remove from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Season the tomatillo salsa to taste with salt. Sprinkle the cilantro over the chicken and salsa and serve with the lime wedges and tortillas.

We added sour cream and guacamole to our little chicken tacos. YUM, they were great. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Pesto Salmon

2013-04-04 17.42.42
Yesterday found Ted and me at the grocery store, trying to figure out what to have for dinner. I kind of wanted salmon, so we got that. We had leftover mashed potatoes at home, and ingredients for salad, so all we had to worry about was the main course. Mango salsa is very easy to put on salmon, but they were out. So we just bought the salmon and came home, and looked around in the fridge to see what we had. Oh, look, pesto! Yay! So I looked online and found this recipe, which has lovely pictures and a blog post all her own, and she gives original credit for the recipe to Mark Bittman. Super easy, and even in early April, the tomatoes can taste OK if they’re roasted a bit. Verdict? A winner! Maya doesn’t like fish as much as Ted and I do, and since she had her wisdom teeth out on Tuesday, I thought this was a good chance to have fish while she had overcooked mac & cheese. She said, “That looks good…I wish I could eat it.” So I think we’ll have this again sometime in the not too distant future.

Pesto Salmon
2 (6 oz) salmon fillets (for 2 people)
cooking spray
2 Tbsp prepared basil pesto
1 Roma tomatoes, sliced
salt and pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 450 F.

Tear two large sheets of aluminum foil and spray each with cooking spray; place salmon on top. Spread 1 tablespoon basil pesto on each piece and lay sliced tomatoes on top. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Fold over sides and double the seams and ends so it is sealed completely. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, open carefully, and serve immediately.