Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Conglomeration...

It's been a few days since I've posted, so this blog is a collection of things to share.

First thing to share, a restaurant review.  Hubby and I were in the mood for some Mexican, and decided to try La Patrona in Clintonville.  It had stellar reviews on Yelp, and the added advantage of being really close to another errand we needed to run.  It was indeed pretty tasty, and I liked the added touch of the Dos Equis "I don't always..." guy as a cardboard cutout with a fancy sombrero on his head.  Tasteful.  But seriously, it was pretty good food, and a fun atmosphere.  I'd give it 4 out of 5 stars, I think.

We've also done some cooking.  The first recipe was the Enchilada Skillet from A Couple of Cooks.  This was really quite good.  Although ours wasn't technically a "skillet".  We don't have an appropriate stove-top-to-oven skillet, so I did the first part on the stove top, then transferred it to a casserole dish to finish it off in the oven.  Other than ending up with an extra dish to wash, I don't think it affected the recipe in any material way.  It was super easy, and my very carnivorous friend who also prepared it declared herself shocked at how good it was with no meat in it.  She was very skeptical, but was convinced after making it.  Hubby and I loved it, but seeing as we both have a penchant for bean enchiladas, it could hardly have been any other way.

The next recipe we made was one of the easiest things we've cooked in a while, but damn it was good!  Cheater Korean Beef from The Girl Who Ate Everything.  I will admit, both Hubby and I are totally ignorant when it comes to Korean food.  We've looked for recipes on occasion, but it seemed everything we found had something in it that one or the other of us wouldn't eat {that was too important to leave out.}  So I can't vouch for how Korean this recipe is or isn't.  All I can say is that it was delicious.  I doubled the sauce ingredients to have extra to put over the noodles, and had to use powdered ginger because I forgot to buy fresh.  Otherwise I think I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, and it was a quick, easy and TASTY dish.  Also, as a side note, I used the noodles from the Asian foods section of the grocery store {one of these days I need to write down what those noodles are!} because they are both yummy, and cook really fast.  This whole meal was done in about 25 minutes.  We couldn't even have gotten take out that fast!

Also, I watched a movie!  For most people that's probably not a very remarkable occurrence, but I am not a fan of watching things.  I rarely watch tv other than some MSNBC, and even more rarely watch movies.  But I watched What If with Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver in it, at Hubby's insistence.  He got it at the library and watched about half of it before deciding it was cute and I should watch it with him.  Since he doesn't frequently demand I watch a movie, I acquiesced without too much of a fight, and in the end was very glad I did.  It was a super super cute movie, especially for someone who loves both Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver. I'm normally not the romance movie type, nor romantic comedies, but this is one definite exception to the rule!

More in my normal pattern of behavior, I finished a book.  The Secret History of the Pink Carnation  by Lauren Willig.  This one was a chance discovery by Hubby at the thrift store.  He proudly brought it to me, positive he had found a book I would love, and he was not wrong.  I found out about 2/3 of the way through the book that it's the first in a series of 12.  That was a bit of a surprise!  Since I'm a sucker for a good historical fiction/historical romance, I was hooked from beginning to end.

Speaking of historical fiction/historical romance, the Westerville library is going to be hosting author Susanna Kearsley next month.  I already registered for the event.  I haven't yet read her work, but it has been on my to-read list for some time.  Now that I know she's coming, I'm gonna get on the ball with it so I can properly appreciate seeing her speak.  I'm currently reading Ruby by Cynthia Bond, which I am absolutely loving.  Once I finish it, it's on to reading Ms Kearsley in preparation for her visit.

And on that note, time to read.  Hope everyone is having a great week!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Not Usually A Sucker For Internet "Cure-Alls", But There's a First Time For Everything...

Last night, I came across this article, on Facebook, I think.  It was by no means the first time I had heard of the warm lemon honey water cure, but for some reason it caught my interest more than it had in the past.  I read her article, and it sure sounds great.  I decided to do a little more cursory research on the topic and found this article.  Reading the list of benefits is like a roll call of good health measures, in my humble opinion.  But as I said, I don't usually fall for this kind of internet story.  Still, I had read this books and magazines as well, and from further reading have discovered it's a practice that has been around for a long, long time.  Another thing differentiating it from the general internet hullabaloo is that it's A) Cheap and B) Won't have risks/side effects.

I contemplated it for a bit before coming to the conclusion of "Why the hell not?"  No harm in trying it, and if it has even low levels of some of the benefits it's purported to have, it would be beyond worth it.  That just left me with the task of procuring the ingredients.  It's important that it be organic, raw honey, and I feared it might be tricky to find.  I got lucky and located it easily enough at Trader Joe's, though.  Then I headed to the produce section and picked up a couple lemons.  Now I'm all set and ready to give it a try tomorrow morning.  My plan is to do it every day for the month of March and see if I notice any benefits from it.

I haven't posted a blog in a couple days, but cooking has still been taking place.  Some great food these last couple days, actually.  First of all was Cacio e Pepe from the cookbook Date Night In by Ashley Rodriguez of Not Without Salt.  I gotta say, this cookbook is a lot of fun.  In particular the stories she shares with each recipe.

So anyway, I found this recipe and decided I had to try it.  Hubby and I have been experimenting with different cheeses, and when I saw this called for Pecorino, I figured it was the perfect excuse to give it a go.  It was actually harder to find the Pecorino than I expected, but Whole Foods came through.  The recipe just calls for "pepper", but in the story accompanying the recipe, she mentions that she used European pepper from Penzeys.  That sounded like an excuse to go to Penzeys, which is always welcome.  The hardest part of the recipe was definitely sourcing the ingredients.  Once I set to making it, it was as easy as it could be, and absolutely delicious.

You probably notice in the photo that there is also chicken on the plate.  As I discussed in my last entry, I am diabetic.  And while pasta is not an "off limits" food, it's definitely a "limit it" food.  I knew I couldn't have just one big plate of pasta and call it dinner.  Initially I was just going to poach some chicken in broth and Italian spices.  Then I got this recipe for Baked Chicken With Tarragon and Dijon Mustard  in my email and it sounded both delicious and very easy to make.  It was a perfect score on both accounts.  Both these recipes are 5 out of 5 star recipes.

After the deliciousness of yesterday's food, I wasn't sure today's would measure up.  I had gotten word from some people who I consider laymen-expert-chefs {in other words, they have no actual credentials aside from really knowing tons about cooking} that the best way to fix a steak is to sear it in a cast iron skillet over very high heat, then stick it, skillet and all, in the oven to finish cooking.  It sounded too easy to be possible, but like I said... I consider these people to know their stuff, and if they say it is so, it must be so.  Therefore I tried it today.  I have to say, that was the best steak I've ever made at home.  I've had some better at restaurants, but never at home.  {And that was likely owing to the restaurant steaks having been better cuts of meat.}

This dinner was another 5 star dinner, though super simple.  I just seasoned the steak with a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper, and that was it.  Just baked a potato and poured on some salsa and a bit of sour cream, and a salad on the side.  It took about 25 minutes total to make the entire meal.  And since the only straight up carb was the baked potato, which wasn't very large, it was fairly blood sugar friendly, too.

In other news, I went to the podiatrist yesterday about my Achilles Tendon, and this was me last night...

He told me the same brace I already had for Plantar Fasciitis would also help with the Achilles Tendon pain, so now my pajamas have a sexy new accessory.  {Made even sexier by the red sock.  It keeps the velcro from scratching my leg!}  He also told me to take anti-inflammatory level doses... otherwise known as 600 mg 4 times a day... of ibuprofen for a week.  I didn't want to take so much for so long, because I know I will end up with rebound headaches when I stop.  Dr says it's necessary, though, so I shall do it.  Sleeping in the brace for a week, taking ibuprofen for a week, and also lots of stretching every day.  Hopefully I will soon be good as new!

The best news from the doctor, though, was that if I can walk without pain, I'm free to walk.  The doctor I had spoken to over the phone had told me to stay off it as much as possible, but the specialist said if it doesn't hurt, do it.  It only hurts for the first minute or two after I stand up, and then I'm okay.  So if the snow, snow, snow, cold, cold and snow ever let up, I can get back to walking.

And now it is time to relax with my current book, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig.  Have a great Saturday night, folks

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fuck Diabetes...

I don't think I've talked about it on this blog.  Not because it's some grand secret or anything, but just... I didn't feel like talking about it.  I have diabetes.  Type 2.  I've had it for about 6 years or so.  I know that for a lot of diabetics, it's one of the first things you learn about them.  And that's probably wise.  For me, I am tired of talking about it.  It's also a way to push it to the back of my mind, though... and that's not a very good place for it.

It has been brought to the forefront these last couple days, though.  I had my quarterly appointment with my endocrinologist yesterday.  She wasn't pleased with me, but I was less concerned about incurring her ire and more concerned about the results of the tests she ordered.  I knew I already had some damage to my kidneys, and I was fearing the worst for the outcome of the test.  I got the results back this evening, and thankfully the damage has not progressed.  To say this was an immense relief would be an immense understatement.  I was having visions of being sent to a nephrologist to have bad news delivered.

I bring this up because I need to be a better patient.  First, let me say... I DO NOT want anyone leaving me comments and telling me I need to live a low carb lifestyle.  Seriously, I don't wanna hear it.  That said, I do need to be doing a lowER carb diet.  I still plan to cook lots of delicious recipes, but I'm going to have smaller portions of more carb-y stuff, with a lot more veggies.  Since I began this blog, I haven't been paying much attention to carbs, nor have I been having anything resembling a sufficient number of veggies.  Time to work on that.  I also plan to cut corners on extra fat and calories where I can, without sacrificing the quality of the dish.  {Which may be a matter of experimenting, I realize...}

In the interest of making something healthier and less carbalicious, I made Modenese Pork Chops for dinner today.  I cut the amount of butter in half, using 2 tbsp instead of 4.  It was more than enough to brown the pork chops, but obviously I ended up with less sauce in the end.  My initial plan had been to use a little broth, but we weren't really going to use the sauce, so I figured it would be okay to have less of it.  This recipe was really delicious, I gotta say.  I'm still new to cooking with wine, and I just find it amazing how much flavor wine can impart into a dish.  This recipe was so simple, mostly healthy, and had flavor for days.  If anyone reading this is unsure about cooking with wine -- COOK WITH WINE!  {Also, I've had it from knowledgeable folks... don't buy the stuff labeled "cooking wine".  It often is just as expensive as a cheap bottle of wine meant for drinking, but is apparently generally a lower quality and may have salt added to it.  I can't vouch for the veracity of this statement, but... I am told.}

Also, today was another trip to Penzeys.  I'm planning on making a recipe in which it was suggested to use European pepper, and decided to go looking for it.  I found it, along with a few other things, of course.  I don't think it's possible to go in there and buy only one thing and come out.  Not for me, anyway.  I think Hubby was one more jar of spices in my hand away from dragging me out by my ear.

Now, tonight, I'm trying to keep myself calm and relaxed.  I'm bipolar, and have a pretty severe anxiety disorder, thus, I am well medicated.  I saw my psychiatrist today, and she decided to switch me from the regular formula of a medication to the XR formula.  The regular formula relatively literally saved my life.  I was entirely dysfunctional by the time it was prescribed, and it made me somewhat normal again.  Therefore it is a terrifying prospect, to have it tinkered with.  I still deal with some issues, though, and she said there's the potential the XR formula would improve things.  I agreed to try it, but with much trepidation.  There's no sleeping for me without the medication, and I fear the XR won't have a sedating enough effect to help me sleep.  Right now I'm feeling tired, but not as drowsy as I had hoped.  So I am struggling to keep my mind occupied, my breathing deep and slow and my body relaxed until I feel I can sleep.  Hopefully that will be sooner than later.

Sleep well, folks in blog land!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nothing Combats Bone Numbing Cold Like Stew!

Since the temperature in Columbus when I checked at 1 pm was a balmy 9 degrees, I was both sad I had to leave the apartment, and very happy about our plans for dinner.  I informed Hubby that we hadn't even made it to the double digits so he could share in the thrill about having to go outside, and indeed he did.  We sucked it up though, and got up and got dressed... and dressed some more... and maybe one more layer.  Voila!  Ready to leave the house.

Apparently everyone else in northeastern Columbus also needed to go to Meijer today.  That place was hopping.  Because I exude class... I drink generic brand Diet Mt Dew from Meijer.  I actually prefer it to real Diet Mt Dew, it has sharper carbonation.  Now real Diet Mt Dew tastes half flat to me.  Anyway, we had to go get another case of fake-Diet-Dew from Meijer, and picked up a couple other things while we were there.  Since half the population of the city was in there, we had to park a mile from the entrance.  Normally that doesn't bother me, and I rarely do any kind of patrolling to find a closer spot.  However, when it's 9 degrees with a well-below-zero windchill, being able to park a foot closer would have been a victory.  We survived, though.  Fortunately our last 2 errands only involved me pulling up to a curb while Hubby ran in and grabbed food for Ginger, then pulling up to a curb again to drop off a book at the library.

We got home after that, and I think I fell into a black hole.  I'm trying to figure out how I spent my afternoon and I honestly don't know.  I guess I just sat and wasted time on the internet for an extended period.  I know I certainly didn't do anything productive, like clean the kitchen.  At some point I suppose I emerged from the black hole and discovered I was hungry.  Which was fine, because dinner tonight was Chicken Marsala Stew, and I couldn't wait to make it and eat it.  I left the onions out of the recipe because I don't care for onions and Hubby can't stand them.  I decided it needed something more, though, so I cut some baby carrots into small pieces, nuked them in the microwave to partly cook them, then finished cooking them with the mushrooms for the stew.  I know it seems like I say this nearly every time I make a recipe, and maybe Hubby and I are just easy to please, but this was REALLY good!

On top of being really good, it was really easy to make and didn't require anything expensive or complicated.  {Unless you live somewhere you can't find Marsala.  A good friend had planned to make this recipe with me, but was unable to find Marsala.}  The only thing I would change about this recipe is the quantity.  Next time I'm making a double batch, cause this would be some killer leftovers!

Also, along the lines of recipes, I came up with a tasty drink last night.  I basically made a smoothie with vodka in it.  I processed up some frozen berries, nonfat milk, Splenda and vodka and called it a frozen drink.  It was delicious.  I was craving a frozen drink because it was Margarita Day, but had zero interest in going somewhere to get a margarita, or get the things to make it.  So I made a frozen berry something-or-other with vodka, and it was delicious!  {Just in case anyone is feeling they need a frozen drink and, like me, have pretty much nothing in the house with which to make one!}

Now it is time to cram like a college student.  Tomorrow morning is the book club meeting at the Westerville library, and though I haven't decided for sure if I'm going, I am at least going to finish the book.  Got about 30% of it left to read, so time to get my nose in my tablet and get to it.  Hope everyone is keeping warm!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Biggest Liar In Los Angeles... Also, Beans.

Back on 2/11/15 I mentioned that I had gotten another "Blind Date" book from the Westerville Library.  I had a couple other book-fish already frying, and didn't get started on it until a few days ago.  It was The Biggest Liar In Los Angeles by Ken Kuhlken.  It was kind of a noir mystery, set in Los Angeles in the 1920s.  I will admit, when I saw what I had chosen, I was not overwhelmed with excitement.  I was determined to read it anyway, if for no other reason than to shame Hubby into reading his Blind Date book.  Happily, though, it turned out to be surprisingly better than I had dared hope.  While I understand that the theory behind mysteries is that you have to keep reading to find out who dun it... I sometimes lose interest, getting lost in the weeds of all the possibilities, and the drive to get to the ending just isn't strong enough.  I realize that probably sounds bizarre, and probably is bizarre, but I've abandoned more than one mystery halfway through.  This one, though, kept me hanging in til the end.  I felt like it had a manageable amount of characters/suspects and possible theories, yet kept the suspense going until the proper time to reveal.  My only complaint is that I discovered 2/3 of the way through the book that it's part of a series, and the last one in the series at that.  I think it probably says something good about the book, though, that it was complete enough to stand on it's own and not need to have read the other books to understand it.  I give this one 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I have now moved on to The Supreme's At Earl's All-You-Can-Eat  by Edward Kelsey Moore.  It's the book club selection for the Morning Book Club at the Westerville Library.  The meeting to discuss it is this coming Tuesday, so I think I've sufficiently waited until the last minute.  I'm a little nervous about the Book Club meeting though.  I've never actually been to one and my only experience discussing books is in a classroom or with close friends.  Basically, I'm reading this one while simultaneously trying to build up the nerve to go to the meeting and discuss it.  Sometimes I wish you could buy courage in pill form.

Other than going out for a 15 minute walk in the pouring snow, I've been stuck inside all day.  We have somewhere around 5-6" of snow, and my little Kia would not appreciate my trying to drive in it. Fortunately we were prepared to be snowed in, and that I'm kind of anal about grocery shopping for a full week at a time, so we had our food ready to cook.  Today's recipe was Bean Casserole.  The original plan had been to cook some of the bags and bags of dried beans we have, but I forgot to soak them and get them started.  So canned beans it was, which is what the recipe called for anyway.  Also, I forgot to buy a pepper and carrots, and we don't like onion.  But we had the mushrooms!  We basically doubled the whole recipe, the beans and tomato paste and so forth.  Not the spices of course.  This recipe turned out to be really tasty, super easy... and cheap!  Gotta love it when you find a recipe so cheap, but so delicious.  Here's the finished product...

Next time I make it... and there will most certainly be a next time... I will be sure to have the peppers and carrots to go in it as well.  I'm a big fan of sneaking veggies in wherever I can. I also give this recipe 4.5 out of 5 stars.  It's a 4.5 out of 5 stars kind of day.

My goal for the rest of the evening is to be a big girl and not cry when Hubby has to go to work tonight.  It's ridiculous how much I get used to having him home, and how much I miss him when he goes back.  The plan of action is to keep my nose in my book til I am good and ready for bed, and the very important addition of crossing my fingers and hoping it works.

Have a great night, all!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Has It Really Been A Week?

Hubby has been on vacation this week, and tonight is his last night.  He has to go back to work tomorrow night at midnight.  How has the week gone by already?  Time always flies when I have him home with me.  I get right spoiled having company and getting so much attention.

One of the best parts of having him home is that we can go out for lunch together.  Usually Hubby is in bed until time for dinner, so sharing lunch is rare.  Yesterday we went to The Blue Danube, or The Dube.

Would have included a link to their webpage, but they don't really have one.  Just some reviews on Yelp and other sites.  Seems nigh impossible, but we had never been to The Dube before.  We've known of it for as long as we've lived here, since people that like it tend to LOVE it and talk about it a lot, but we'd never gone ourselves.  Yesterday was the day.  It was a neat little place, I felt like it had real character.  Which is, I suppose, because it has been there forever and had time to build character.  The salad I ordered was a little sad looking, but I figure that maybe salad isn't one of their more popular dishes.  The souvlaki I got was delicious, though.

The next thing on our list was grocery shopping.  There was once a time where I went to the market so infrequently that going was sort of a novelty... but that ship has sailed.  It's just a chore now, something to be done on Thursday afternoons to prevent starving every other day of the week.  The only interesting thing we bought was Prosecco, which was to make these...

We'll call it a faux-Bellini.  It was mostly real, except that white peaches are not to be found at this time of year, so it was necessary to sub regular peaches.  I got the inspiration to make them off a show on Cooking TV, and felt I had to try them.  My verdict was:  Yum!  Hubby's verdict was:  Has the texture of pulpy orange juice and is gross!  So we had differing opinions.  The bright side to this was that I drank 3 of them, since he wanted none.  The only thing I will do differently when I make them again is to process the peaches into liquid and then store them in the fridge for a few hours so it can be good and cold, along with the cold Prosecco.  Of course, if you are one of those lucky folks that has ice in your freezer, tossing in a cube would solve the problem.  We, unfortunately, have the tiniest fridge ever and no room to store ice in the freezer.  {I'm also wondering if using frozen peaches would be an option.  Anyone have an opinion?}

In between the grocery shopping and Bellinis, there was a coffee date with a good friend.  Hubby and I are going to a prom-themed party at the end of March, and my dear friend was bringing her collection of shawls for me to peruse and choose one to wear with my dress.  She walked into the coffee shop with both arms loaded with shawls, and holy moly did she have some gorgeous ones!  We narrowed it down to about 6 possibles, then narrowed it from there down to 2.  I brought those 2 home to try with my dress on, and narrowed it down to one.  This is the one I chose...

Isn't it lovely?  Here's the dress I will be wearing it with...

They match perfectly, and the shawl is just gorgeous.  She's just the sweetest friend, and I'm confident I'll have the prettiest shawl at the prom-party!

Today I drug Hubby out to some thrift stores.  I was on a mission to find some shoes for the prom party.  Because it is anathema to me to pay full price for nearly anything, I was determined to find a pair at a thrift store.  It's perhaps a little odd... though I prefer "quirky"... but I really enjoy the hunt for the perfect item at Goodwill.  Fortunately it only took 2 thrift stores to find treasure.  I found these...

They were basically exactly what I was looking for.  Just enough heel on them, without having so much that my tootsies would be aching 5 minutes after arriving at the party.  Also, for anyone that has some kind of fetish hearing about other people's thrift shopping... I found a cast iron skillet that will be the perfect size for searing steaks before cooking them in the oven.  It was a very successful day.

Tonight was the last dinner Hubby and I were going to get to enjoy together before his vacation ends, and I'm happy to say it turned out extra good.  Fully worthy of a last-vacation-dinner.  We made this Creamy Chicken Enchilada recipe, and it was delicious.  The recipe just called for cooked chicken, but I decided to flavor up my chicken when I cooked it.  I sprinkled some bbq seasoning on the breasts and let them set in the fridge for a couple hours, then poached them in some chicken broth.  Hubby shredded those up for me while I got the other stuff ready, and we got it in the oven.

Before we cooked anything, though, I took some leftover cilantro and chopped it up {working hard to master proper technique!} and mixed it into some jarred salsa.  Popped that in the fridge to set while we got everything else ready.  Then, Mexican restaurant style, we munched on chips and salsa while the enchiladas baked.  All in all, it was a delicious dinner and only needed some margaritas.  Unfortunately I like my margaritas frozen, and this brings us back to my earlier problem -- No ice.

Now I am off to enjoy my last full night of having Hubby home with me.  Have a good night, all!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Countdown to the Year of the Sheep...

Happy Chinese New Year's Eve!  I am neither Chinese, nor particularly superstitious, but I do love a reason to celebrate.  Even a minor celebration, as today has been.  I admit, I was not aware today is Chinese New Year's Eve until I read this post from "i am a food blog".  I just stumbled across this blog last night, and what timing!  It was some unholy, wee hour of the morning and I was battling insomnia when I came across it, and found myself totally intrigued.  I mean, seriously... look at that recipe and tell me you're not salivating!

I decided Hubby and I were going to make the beef wontons and sauce today.  We had to run out to the store and get a few things to make it, then hurried home to get to work.  This was my first time trying to make wontons/dumplings, or anything using a wonton wrapper.  I set to work, and at first things were coming along nicely.

It is somewhat a time consuming process, but it was working better than I expected.  I often don't have luck with things that involve artistry, even if the artistry was only folding up the wontons.  Things seemed to be going just as they should, and I got all of them made and ready to boil.  In the water they went.

Initially, things were looking okay... but I think this is where I went astray.  I read the directions for how long to boil the wontons, but I suppose I took it as a suggestion, and that was my mistake I believe.  I was also trying to boil noodles {noodles and dumplings are good luck foods on Chinese New Years}, and figured I'd just let the wontons continue to boil until the noodles were closer to ready.  I probably let them boil an extra 3 minutes, and when I went to drain them... they were totally mush and completely fell apart.  Now, as I said, *I* did not properly follow the directions, and if I had, this probably would not have happened.  {Unless anyone else has any suggestions about why it may have gone wrong?}

They were completely inedible, though the bites of meat I sampled were good.  The wontons were a total loss, and we ended up just pitching the whole thing.  However, the Spicy Chili Oil {part of the larger recipe}  was amazing.  I imagine I may have bastardized it a bit, because I didn't use the ground szechuan peppercorns.  I didn't have any, and also, I am a wuss about spicy things.  I did put the red pepper in it, which gave it as much spice as I could handle.  So I tossed the noodles with the sauce.

I was disappointed that the wontons didn't work, but I'm pretty sure I know where I went wrong, and I'll be sure to try again.  But even if I never master making wontons, just getting the recipe for that sauce was worth all the effort.  A million and one thanks to Steph at "i am a food blog" for sharing this recipe.

I also learned that it is apparently good luck to clean just before Chinese New Years.  So I did a little cleaning and rearranging in the kitchen earlier, and the fridge is gonna be getting a good cleaning later.  Hubby is napping now, but promised to help me when he wakes up.  All chores automatically suck less when someone helps you with them, or at least keeps you company while you do them.  I'm not looking forward to the actual act of cleaning the fridge, but I AM looking forward to having a clean and organized fridge.  And if some Chinese New Years Eve cleaning can bring a little luck for the coming year, so much the better!

Today is not only Chinese New Years Eve, though.  It is also National Drink Wine Day.  I really only pay attention to "National _______ Day" when it gives me the excuse to do something I'd want to do anyway.  And drinking wine is one of those things.  So after the fridge is clean and the chores are done, Hubby and I will settle down with some wine and relax until we're ready for bed.  Which will hopefully be sometime before sunrise.

Wishing everyone a great start to the Year of the Sheep!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One Can Have No Better Friend Than One That Loans You A Great Book

My Sunday afternoon walking buddy is also one of the best kinds of buddies -- the kind that passes along a book they think you will enjoy.  I just finished one she loaned me;  Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas.  When I am loaned a book, or one is recommended, I frequently don't read the synopsis on the back or anything else about it.  I prefer to just let the book unfold on it's own and learn what it is as I go.  I did the same with this one, and found myself surprised by the ways the book became a different type of book a few times throughout.  I mean that as praise, since most books are basically what they seem from beginning to end.  I wasn't expecting it to get off into sort of a crime drama kind of thing, but it did have elements of that.  Along with being firmly historical fiction, which is one of my favorite genres.  This was my first Sandra Dallas book, but I expect to search out more of her stuff.  My walking buddy had it absolutely right, thinking it was something I would like, and I very much did!

Also, while on the subject of reviewing things... a recipe review.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, I had amazing Pastitsio at Anna's Greek Restaurant last week.  It left me determined to find a recipe and make it at home.  I went first to AllRecipes because I've had some very good luck with their recipes recently.  Without too much searching, I found this recipe for Pastitsio.  In the photo, it looked virtually identical to the dish I had at Anna's.  It seemed like quite a bit of work, but apparently that is the nature of Pastitsio.  Luckily Hubby is on vacation this week and I knew he wouldn't mind to be my sous chef, so I decided to tackle it.  We made it today, and I have to say, as far as taste goes, it was amazing.  I am puzzled, though, at how they got this recipe to look like the photo.  Maybe it was a stock photo?  I'm not sure.  Here is ours, and while it was beautiful, it didn't look like the photo with the recipe.

I'm not sure how they got such a thick cream layer on top, as the recipe didn't call for thickening it up any before putting it on.  Does anyone have any ideas?  As I said, though, it was really delicious.  The all spice, nutmeg and cinnamon seasonings gave it a very unique flavor, very much unlike most baked pasta dishes.  Though there was some tomato paste in it, the tomato flavor was not pronounced.  It was a little work to get it done, but it was definitely worth it.

Columbus is still plagued with the bitter cold weather, which means no one wants to be outside.  Including me.  My Achilles Tendon is still injured, but I had thought to walk for 5-10 minutes today, just for the fresh air.  Then I thought differently when I got outside and discovered how cold and windy that fresh air was.  The only thing to be said about this kind of weather is... it's past mid-February, it can't last that much longer.  Godspeed, Spring!

The upshot, though, is that it's great for cozy book reading in a warm apartment on a soft couch, which is just what I'm planning for the rest of my evening.  I bid you adieu, folks... stay warm!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Brunch, New Pots and Pans and a New Recipe... Oh My!

Hubby and I had plans for today.  Not big plans, but plans.  We decided to go out for brunch somewhere, and after much pondering, decided on Jack & Benny's.  We had driven by it's location on High Street dozens of times, but never when Jack & Benny's was open and we were hungry.  We'd always talked about visiting, though, and today was the perfect opportunity.  Since it was Presidents' Day and lots of businesses and things were closed, I guess we picked the right time.  Not only did we not have to hunt for parking, we got the most prime spot.

I had both been told Jack & Benny's was good, as well as read good reviews of it, so I was excited to try it.  It did not disappoint.  It's a small little breakfast/lunch greasy spoon type place, and it was delicious.  My food came covered in country gravy, which, as a girl born and raised in the country, is one of my favorite food groups.  "Breakfast Gravy" is the food group they don't teach the city kids about, but you know it in the country, and moving to the city sure doesn't make you forget about it.   In the event there are any other Columbus dwelling folks migrated from the country, and hankering for some gravy... I highly recommend this place!

Our plan was to go to the Main Library downtown after brunch.  Unfortunately the weather gods had different ideas.  It had been flurrying on the way to the restaurant, but turned into a fairly steady snow by the time we came out.  We headed toward the library anyway, but after getting a little below Ohio State, we decided to abandon the plan.  I didn't relish the idea of driving downtown on snowy, slushy roads, even if it was a holiday.  

We turned around and went toward home, but got side tracked by Goodwill on the way up High St.  I wanted to look for some stainless steel pots and/or pans, since I'm learning that professional cooks prefer them over non-stick cookware, for most things.  Amazingly, I actually found what I was looking for!  I rarely leave a thrift store empty handed, but also rarely leave with what I went in to find.  Today was my lucky day I guess.  I found these...

They're not stellar quality, but I thought they'd give me the chance to get a little experience with stainless steel, without sinking a ton of money (that I don't have) into new cookware.  I did a little research on non-stick vs non-coated cookware and came across this article which had some pretty good information in it.  There are, of course, a plethora of different opinions on both sides of the non-coated/non-stick issue, but to my way of thinking, it seems fair to say there are appropriate uses for both.

Like a little kid with a new toy, I had to try them out.  Fortunately the recipe we were planning to cook, this Chicken Gruyere with Sauteed Mushrooms recipe, required sauteing the chicken and mushrooms in a pan before placing them in the oven.  The first thing I learned was... if I let the pan get too hot before putting butter in it, the butter will scorch and smoke and generally behave badly.  So, alrighty, duly noted.  Poured the scorched butter out, wiped out the pan, and tried again with much less heat.  This time it worked fantastically.  Browned the chicken and shuffled it to the baking dish, then browned the mushrooms and simmered them with some wine before sticking it all in the oven.  20 minutes later, I sprinkled the shredded Gruyere on top and put it back in to melt it.  After a few more minutes, this...

I hope it looks as good in the picture as it tasted, because sweet Christ, it was amazing.  Both the mushrooms and the chicken were cooked perfectly and it was just delicious.  This was my first experience with Gruyere, and I loved it.  

The rest of tonight is going to be a repeat of last night -- Some quality time under a warm quilt, reading and chatting with Hubby.  And again... stay warm, folks!

Sunday, February 15, 2015


This meme, stolen from a share of a share of a share on Facebook (I don't know who to actually credit for the photo!)... well, it pretty much sums up life in Columbus right now.  I have a dear friend that lives in North Dakota, and I know that, for her, our current weather is nothing special.  But for me, living in Columbus, and being from the South... temps not getting out of the single digits are noteworthy, in the worst possible way.  Toss in a windchill in the double digits below zero, and it makes for a miserable, stay-inside-under-a-blanket day.  Which is mostly what I've done.

I did venture out briefly, to the Verizon store of necessity, and to get something to eat, because I didn't have anything planned for lunch.  I am ever so thankful for my trusty little Kia.  The heat in the little guy works like a champ and my teeth stopped chattering within minutes.  In weather like this, that's something to be grateful for.  Also, a shout out to ODOT, and all the city/suburb road maintenance crews.  The main roads were, for the most part, in excellent condition.

I have one ace up my sleeve that makes the cold weather more bearable.

Back in the fall, Hubby and I were driving from Huntington, WV, back up to Columbus.  We got side tracked by a thrift store along the way, and I found this little fellow in there.  I snatched him right up.  How bad can a day be if you have a monster on your head, I ask you!  Yes, I am 34 years old and wear a winter hat that looks like a monster.  It makes me smile every time I put it on, and gauging from the number of compliments I get on it, it makes other people smile as well.  After having gone through a few of these bitter cold snaps wearing a monster, I can say, for sure, bitter temperatures suck less with a creature on your head.

Eventually Hubby and I decided to make some food.  We were watching some cooking show, and the woman made a short-cut quiche by pouring croutons in it.  Quiche was actually our plan for dinner today, but we were both feeling lazy.  So, some eggs, some half and half, some herbs, some cheese and some croutons... into the oven... and voila, we ended up with eggs with croutons.  It didn't fool us into thinking we were eating quiche, even short-cut quiche, but it was pretty tasty.  Didn't cure my craving for actual quiche, though.

Now I'm off to spend what remains of my evening curled up under a nice warm quilt with my nose in a book.  Stay cozy, folks!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

It May Be a Hallmark Holiday, But...

I admit it, I like Valentine's Day.  This year is the 18th Valentine's Day since Hubby and I started dating.  The first couple years were long distance Valentine's Day celebrations, but since they were my first years of having a boyfriend for the holiday, I was still pretty excited about it.  Poor Hubby, he tried to have flowers delivered to me at school the Valentine's Day of my senior year.  This was before www.proflowers.com and the simplicity of being able to just place the order online.  Not before the internet, but before it was the easy way to send flowers.  So he went to a flower shop in his town, and had them place the order for flowers to be delivered to me by my flower shop in my town.  Somewhere along the way, the communication broke down and my flowers never got delivered.  I was crushed that I didn't get flowers at school, and he was pissed they didn't deliver them.  In the end, I got my flowers, and they were gorgeous, so all worked out just fine.

Anyway, since we live together now, it's considerably easier to get flowers to me.  Not fool proof, though.  When I woke up this morning and sat down at my computer, the first thing I saw on Twitter and Facebook was other people in Columbus bitching about the snow.  We keep our curtains in the living room closed, so we don't have to worry about people across the alley staring at us.  So I figured I'd slip my shoes on and go peek on the balcony to see what it looked like outside.

This photo was taken about noon and it looks like late evening.  It was pouring the snow and the wind was howling.  I stayed outside precisely long enough to take 2 steps out the door, snap a photo, and run back in.  It was not fit for man nor beast out there!  Hubby was going to walk over to the store next to us and buy flowers for me, but they wouldn't have survived the snowstorm, even if he had been willing to walk in it.

I was immensely glad we had not made any kind of reservations at a restaurant or any plans to go out.  We generally cook a nice meal together at home on Valentine's Day, rather than battle the crowds and wait times to go out.  Our day could carry on as planned, from the warm, safe, dry inside of our apartment.

I had been planning our dinner for almost 2 weeks.  I figured we'd tackle something more ambitious than we usually do, so it would be a special meal.  We made Poached Chicken with Creamy Tarragon Sauce from a French cookbook I bought.  {I posted the recipe myself on AllRecipes, but credited the cookbook and author.}

It was absolutely delicious.  I was concerned about making the veloute sauce, since we don't have much experience with sauce making.  It turned out amazing, though. The chicken was perfect, and the sauce was creamy and wonderful.  For dessert, I kind of made up my own recipe for Easy Chocolate Mousse Pie, which was also wonderful and unbelievably easy to make.  {Not very authentic, though!}

Sometime after we ate, we realized we needed to go to the store for a couple things.  The blizzard conditions had abated, and the store is almost directly beside the apartment complex, so we decided to try it.  Fortunately the gusty winds had blown all the snow off the car, so we didn't have to stand in the sub-zero windchills to brush the snow off.  We just hopped in and cranked the heat while the car warmed up.  There were a few inches of snow on the ground, but since they hadn't made any attempt at scraping the parking lots or side roads, we weren't buried in.  We ventured over to Giant Eagle and got what we needed.  While we were out, Hubby managed to get my Valentine's presents and they made it home without getting mutilated by the wind.

The puppy is about the cutest thing ever.  Hubby knew I would like him cause he's all patchwork and "a scruffer", as he said.  And he was right.

We got home without freezing to death, which was kind of a miracle.  That wind was brutal.  Since my Achilles Tendon is injured, I can't walk very fast... but you better believe I was hobbling with as much speed as I could muster.

We finished out a lovely Valentine's Day with some sparkling wine.

All in all, it has been a wonderful day and a romantic evening.  Something about it being so damn cold outside makes it feel much cozier and comfier inside!

Friday, February 13, 2015

I Wanna Be a Hippie...

To the tune of I Wanna Be A Kennedy, by Kill Hannah, I have been singing "I wanna be a hippie... I wanna be a real tree hugger..."  While I mean that slightly tongue-in-cheek, there's some truth in it as well... I kind of DO wanna be a hippie!  Alas, I don't have the internal moral compass to guide me in proper hippieism.  Or perhaps I do, but am frequently too lazy to head True North.

In a classic example of why it's "Nice that we found each other...", Hubby is also a wanna-be hippie.  Although in his case, I think it's perhaps less actually wanting to be a hippie, and more that he just wants to spend all his time hanging out with hippies.  Why the talk about hippies?  Because we visited what we lovingly refer to as the "Hippie Store", the Clintonville Community Market.

Hubby and I both love this little shop, though we don't shop there a lot.  We don't end up that far down into Clintonville very often.  Today we had lunch at Aladdin's, which is only a few blocks away from the Community Market, and we couldn't miss the opportunity to pop in.  The first things I found I didn't know I was looking for.

I've had a lot of sore muscles and tendons recently, and I'm hoping these will allow me to treat them more naturally.  I'm a big fan of using natural treatments whenever possible.  Probably because I'm already on a potent chemical cocktail to deal with my bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder and diabetes.  I prefer to avoid adding more chemicals to the mix whenever possible, and these seemed like a worthwhile investment, with my sudden streak of aches and pains.

After that we found what may be a legit reason to drive down there -- the selection of fresh herbs.  A recipe we are planning on making tomorrow calls for fresh tarragon, and we had been unable to find it in our normal grocery haunts.  The Community Market had a surprisingly extensive selection of fresh herbs, including fresh tarragon.  Now our meal will not have to be sullied with dried tarragon instead of fresh.

Lastly, we needed drinks.  The Community Market carries Butterscotch Beer, kept in the refrigerated case, so it is cold and ready to drink.  I think Hubby would be willing to drive down there every day, just for a bottle of Butterscotch Beer.  (Which, incidentally, is non-alcoholic, and "beer" in the way that root beer is "beer".)  Because of my diabetes, I rarely let myself have a drink sweetened with real sugar.  I figure if I'm going to have sugar, I want to eat it and not drink it.  Therefore my choices in a natural foods place are pretty limited.  They did have Zevia, which is a non-calorie soda sweetened with Stevia.  I got a can of cherry cola, and I gotta say, it was pretty tasty!

The best part of the Clintonville Community Market, however, is not the selection of items they sell.  The best part is the people that work there.  Every employee we have ever encountered has been unfailingly friendly, and free with offers of help.  I'm not a fan of places like department stores, where people are being forced to offer help and seem to buzz around you like flies.  The Community Market has a totally different feel.  It seems the people are GENUINELY friendly and helpful.  There just isn't enough of that in the world.

Since we were in Clintonville, and had no real plans for the evening, we decided to stop by Global Gallery .

I love looking at the things in the little store section of the shop.  It's all handmade, fair trade merchandise.  There is always a good selection of unique items and interesting things to browse.  Though I was seriously eyeballing a couple of handmade scarves, we didn't end up buying anything.
The plan when leaving Global Gallery had been to go home, but then I recalled a couple of places in the mall at The Shops At Worthington Place I wanted to check out.  I had seen them when walking in the mall with my Sunday buddy.  We browsed a couple of stores before the inevitable item I couldn't live without.  I nearly always find one of those!

It's a beautiful handcrafted coffee mug, made by artist Cathy Tietz Boring.  It's an absurdly difficult task to find a sizable coffee mug that is in any way interesting.  I kind of have a coffee addiction, and had been on the lookout for a mug that spoke to me.  I wanted something handmade locally, and despite looking at a number of craft fairs and in several boutiques, I hadn't found anything that tickled my fancy and wouldn't bleed my wallet dry.  These photos really don't do it justice, it's much lovelier in person... and also, dishwasher and microwave safe.  

After that we were both hungry and broke, so we headed for home.  I had planned to make a crustless quiche for dinner, with turkey ham and toast on the side.  Unfortunately we stayed out longer than I had planned, and just wanted something fast and easy. I'm almost ashamed to admit what we ended up eating... Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with chopped up turkey ham in it.  And what's worse... we quite enjoyed it!  Hopefully tomorrow's dinner will redeem us from such processed crap.

And now, I hear my book calling.  Good evening, friends!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I Hate People: Reason Of The Day, 2/13/15

I have a dog.  Her name is Ginger, and she's really freaking cute.

Adorable, right?  Yeah, she's also demon spawn, crawled right out of the 9th circle of Hell.  She likes precisely 4 people... Hubby, myself, and 2 of our friends.  Everyone else falls somewhere between "Avoid!" and "Attempt to Mutilate".  One's position on this scale can change from day to day, more or less based on her mood.  A mood that is always markedly worse after seeing another dog.  She goes batshit crazy if she is anywhere near a dog, and not in a "I want to play with that other doggy really badly!" way, but in an "I want to fuck that dog up and rip out it's jugular!" kind of way.  Fortunately she only weighs 7 lbs, so is therefore pretty easy to control.

Usually.  But sometimes she's a sneaky little bugger.  Sometimes, like today.  I came upstairs and into the apartment, and she managed to sneak out as I was coming in.  Normally I make sure she's inside before I close the door, but apparently I wasn't paying enough attention.  I was standing near the door talking to Hubby when suddenly I heard Ginger start barking... in the hall.  I flung the door open and found her at the other end of the hallway with our neighbor virtually treed.  He had his own dog in his arms, and she is just as mean as Ginger, and not much bigger.  So they were being as vicious as two tiny dogs can be, and the neighbor was just kind of... stuck.  I went running down the hallway telling him I was sorry as I ran, and grabbed her.  He reassured me multiple times that it was okay, and he knows what the little bastards can be like sometimes, for which I am thankful.

I brought her back inside and threatened to throw her in the trash, which she would fully deserve.  Once my heart rate had come back down to normal, I thought how lucky we were that it was our neighbor that she cornered in hallway, and not a stranger.  And also, I thought how glad I was that he didn't panic and give her a swift kick.  After thinking about that, I thought, for the first time, that some people would have reacted violently to their dog behaving so badly, and would have hit her or hurt her in some way.  The thought made me lose my appetite.

I didn't think much more about it, but I guess the incident was still floating around in the back of my mind.  When I laid down to sleep, it popped into my consciousness again.  I had another wave of gratefulness that she hadn't gotten hurt, nor hurt anyone else.  Because my mind runs away from me at night, I considered how badly that could've turned out.

One thought led to another, and I found myself thinking about people who physically punish their dogs, which brought up something I wish I had the courage to have handled differently.  Some time ago, maybe a year or so, I was sitting in my car in the parking lot downstairs.  I was waiting for Hubby to come down and join me, and was just looking around to pass the time.  I saw a large man walking with two dogs on leashes.  One was a bulldog, and the the other was just some generic looking medium size dog.  He was walking from the parking lot towards our building, and along the way, the bulldog stopped walking to sniff a small patch of grass.  The man turned around and kicked the poor dog in the side hard enough that it yelped so loudly I heard it from a good 30 or 40 yards away.

My first reaction was sheer shock.  I couldn't believe someone kicked a dog that hard for stopping to sniff some grass.  My second reaction was to wonder what happens to the poor thing when it actually does something bad.  I was upset and angry, but at the time I didn't see anything I could have done.  In hindsight, I wish I had hopped out of my car and nonchalantly followed him until he went inside his apartment so I could get the apartment number.  Then I could have reported him to apartment management or called the cops.  Not that either of those things would have ended up helping the dog, most likely, but maybe the man could have been caused a little grief for what he did.

(Since then, I have fantasized a number of times about having had the balls to run up to him and kick him in the balls.)

In my personal Utopia, an animal abuser would be punished as severely for hurting an animal as a human.  I think it must be a satisfying moment, to be a judge and sentence an animal abuser with the most severe punishment you can dole out.  My internet sleuthing skills are failing me, quite possibly because it must have been a decade ago, but a judge ordered a man serving a short sentence for starving an animal to death to be fed only bread and water.  That's a satisfying punishment for an incomprehensible crime.

I'm glad to say I never saw the man that kicked the bulldog again, since I know my blood would've boiled at the sight of him.  I thought about the incident many times in the days and weeks that followed it, but it had faded into a memory I hadn't thought on in a while.  Recalling it and rehashing it in my mind has brought back the helpless, frustrated feeling of not doing anything.  Nothing to be done for it but hope Karma gets him.  And hug Ginger and let her know I forgive her for being a little shit.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

To Sleep Or To Write?

I'm normally tucked in bed and hoping for sleep by now, or at least laying on the futon gazing adoringly at Hubby and chatting with him, as a way of winding down before being tucked in bed and hoping for sleep.  Tonight, though, I don't seem to be sleepy at all.  My mind is restless and wandering.  If it would wander somewhere useful, that would be a boon, but really I'm just thinking about wishing I had inspiration for a blog post.  Wishing for inspiration and having inspiration are miles apart, I fear.

Nevertheless, if I'm writing, I'm keeping my mind under control.  It's focused on something innocuous and not flitting off in a dozen directions, and finding two dozen things to be anxious about.  Sometimes I wonder if I have Night Time ADD.  My thoughts seem to move around in a fairly orderly fashion during the day, but the later it gets, the more restless my mind becomes.  I both need and hate therapy, and let the hate win over the need.  If I ever get around to letting the need win over the hate, I'll ask if Night Time ADD is a thing.  (I doubt it.)

Let's see... matters of interest.  How about books!  Books are always interesting!  I finished one last night, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews.  This was a randomly selected book from the library's table of Blind Date books.  I would give it 6 stars if Goodreads would let me.  It was an excellent book!  The writing was witty, clever and engaging.  I've noticed as I read more and varied things, the writing tends to be what hooks me.  There are plot themes I enjoy, admittedly, but I will appreciate a well written book on nearly any subject.  When I unwrapped A Complicated Kindness and read the synopsis, I thought it sounded good.  In fact, I thought it sounded really good, and felt I had gotten pretty lucky in the Blind Date Book lottery.  In the end, though, it surpassed my expectations and was better than I had any right to hope for.  Though I had not heard of Miriam Toews prior to this, I will definitely be reading anything else of hers I can get my hands on.

Since I had such fabulous luck with the Blind Date Book... and because I like unwrapping shiny packages... I couldn't resist picking up a second one when I dropped off my review card of the first one.

It was just too enticing to leave behind!  Once again, like a little kid, I had to tear it open as soon as I got to the car with it. I found The Biggest Liar in Los Angeles by Ken Kuhlken.  It's a mystery, and while I don't dislike mysteries, they're also not generally the first thing I reach for.  The synopsis makes it sound like noir mystery, though, and that's more intriguing.  

There are a couple books in line ahead of it, though.  Tonight I started Alice's Tulips by Sandra Dallas.  It's on loan to me from a good friend, along with her recommendation.  I've read a few books she has suggested previously, and I've loved all of them.  So far this one is interesting.  It's historical fiction, although not really the kind I'm used to.  I managed to lose about 2 hours of time reading it, which I suppose says it's engaging!

And lastly, BBQ 3001. This is one of the jars of spices I bought at Penzeys the other day, and I decided to give it a whirl.  I wasn't sure entirely what I wanted to do with it, but was quite positive I didn't want to do anything that required too much effort.  That's just how it goes some days.  Some days I don't mind putting a little work into a meal, and other days I want it quick and easy.  I finally decided to open up a can of chicken broth, pour it into a pan, dump some of the BBQ 3001 in, and use it to poach some chicken breast.  Result?  Awesome!  The BBQ 3001 has a great taste and did a nice job of flavoring the chicken.  Now let's hope I have equally good luck with the other blends I bought.

I guess this Sleep playlist on Spotify is doing it's job, since I'm suddenly tired and ready for bed.  Sweet dreams, folks!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Restaurant Meals Are Cooking Inspiration... Also, Books Are Good...

I had originally planned to cook something to eat today, but I just wasn't in the mood when the time came.  Hubby and I never go out ON Valentine's Day, but we have a Valentine's dinner at a restaurant on another day.  On the actual day, we cook something nice at home.  But anyway, since we hadn't gone out yet, nor made plans, I decided we would go out for a late lunch and let that be our Valentine's meal at a restaurant.  We decided on Anna's, a Greek place we had never been to.  We usually do fast food type Greek places, not sit down restaurants, and thus I had only had sandwiches/pitas or soups.  After staring at the menu for a good chunk of time, wanting absolutely everything, I decided on Pastitsio.  Hubby and I had made it at home before, and loved it, so I figured I'd give the restaurant version a try.  All I can say about that is... where has Pastitsio been all my life?!?

It was incredibly delicious, far beyond any other Greek restaurant experience I've had.  {Which are, admittedly, somewhat limited.}  Even the salad that came as a side was exceptionally good.  The whole experience gets two thumbs up from me.

On the way home from the restaurant, I decided I wanted to look up a recipe to make a more authentic Pastitsio than the one I had made previously.  I went to AllRecipes to look and found this one, which looks remarkably like what I had at Anna's.  That's on the to-cook list now.

After we finished eating, we went to Dollar Tree to find something to skim cream sauces with, and came out with nothing for that... but not empty handed.  Is it ever possible to come out of there empty handed?  I don't think so.  Neither of us felt like schlepping to a bunch more stores to continue our search, so we abandoned it until our regular grocery shopping day {Thursday}.  That left one last errand... the library.  I'm not sure the library really counts as an "errand", though, since we both thoroughly enjoy going there.  I think the nature of an errand is that it has to be something you'd rather not do.  Anyway, I had this on hold for me there...

The friend I had lunch with yesterday suggested I get this and watch it.  I've never watched any of Julia Child's shows, but I'm told they are awesome... and, as you can see if you can read beneath the bar code, it is French cooking.  There are 18 episodes of the show on this 3 disc set.  Unfortunately I don't have The French Chef Cookbook, but if some of these recipes sound really good, it should be easy enough to get.

Other than that, all I've done is read.  I started A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews yesterday.  I'm nearing the halfway point, and am fully enjoying it.  I picked it at the library when it was wrapped up as a Blind Date book, and it seems I got VERY lucky with my Blind Date.  So far, it's fabulous.  The writing I find to be witty and clever, and as I've mentioned previously... clever wit gets me hook, line and sinker.

I'm now sitting here looking around me and realizing there is chaos.  But why clean now, when I can put it off til tomorrow?  Which is exactly what I'm going to do.  The rest of the evening is going to be dedicated to reading and relaxing.  Not that I've done anything to need to relax, but I'm giving myself permission nonetheless.

Until I write again!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Restaurant, Recipe and Book Review...

From the title of the blog, it would seem I've had a busy day.  In reality, not so much.  But I did accomplish a few things.  First of all, lunch with a friend at Aladdin's.  I had been there once before, but it was several years ago, and I didn't even recall what I had.  After this trip, though, I'll be sure to remember it.  The food was delicious, and very well priced.  Of particular note was the lentil soup, which was just awesome.  My dining partner is gluten intolerant, and Aladdin's has several GF options.  It was part of the reason we chose it.  They also have a pretty good selection of Vegetarian options as well.

After we enjoyed our lunch and lingered over conversation, I headed home and mostly just wasted time until I woke Hubby.  We needed to go to Penzeys {online and brick and mortar store} to find some herbs.  Fines Herbes, to be specific.  As I posted in yesterdays blog, my walking buddy gave me a jar of Bouquet Garni she had and didn't need, and it had come from Penzeys.  She said she was quite sure they would also have Fines Herbes, so we went to check.  And indeed, they did.  And a couple other things to boot.  I moved my laptop to line up my purchases, and by the time I got my phone ready to take a picture, this had happened.

So of course I did the only thing to be done in this situation, and moved the jars so I could give Beto some attention.  He's clearly quite starved of affections and was desperate.  10 minutes later, when he was tired of getting his head scratched and his belly rubbed, he jumped down and I tried again.

Worked a little better the second time around.  I had planned to look around the store longer, but Hubby said his belly was hurting and wanted to come home.  Those were the jars I had in my hand at the time, so I just headed to the register and paid and we left.  The BBQ 3001 is for Hubby.  He loves BBQ anything, so I got one to make him happy.

I brought him home and dropped him off, then went back to the grocery store.  I had planned to stop at a bakery and get a loaf of French bread for dinner, and was hell bent on having some.  Since I was in there, I browsed the wine section.  I'm trying to find a Sauternes that isn't $50 a bottle, and figured I'd take a look in their wine room.  No luck.  So I just got the bread and headed back home.

 By this time my belly was growling, and walking in the door of my apartment practically made me salivate.  I had Beef Bourguignon in the slow cooker, and it smelled amazing.  By then Hubby said he felt well enough to eat {and I entertained the notion he just didn't want to spend anymore time wandering around looking at spices, and never felt ill at all...}, so I whipped up some potatoes to go with it, and got some of the French bread and just a bit of butter.  This was the first time either of us had ever had Beef Bourguignon, so I wasn't sure how it would be.  In the end, it was fabulous.  Here is the recipe, for anyone that is interested.  The recipe says to cook it in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, but I knew I was going to be out and doing things, and wouldn't have the time nor desire to sit at home and babysit an oven for 2 1/2 hours.  So I browned the meat, then put the rest of the ingredients in the slow cooker with the meat and set it to going just before I left to meet my friend.  It was in the slow cooker on low heat for about 5 hours, and it was perfect.

Once dinner was done, Hubby and I had no further plans for the day.  So I retreated into my book.  I was finishing Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood.  This was my 3rd Atwood book, and possibly my favorite.  Though I adored The Handmaid's Tale, and very much liked Lady Oracle, Alias Grace was maybe the best of the 3.  There were emotional parts, a number of witty passages, and a well constructed story.  The book is based upon a real woman and real events, though much is not known about the crime that actually occurred.  I thought she did a wonderful job of telling the story the way it could have happened, even though it probably wasn't.  I think what impressed me most was the often clever turns of phrases Atwood used throughout the book.  I have a fine appreciation for a keen wit, and it delivers on that front.  Definitely more Atwood in my future.

My next book will be A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews.  Our library did a Blind Date Book display for Valentine's Day.  There were books wrapped in Valentine Paper, and you chose one, checked it out, then took it home and unwrapped it to see what you had.  Then you read the book and fill out a comment card when you return it.  I couldn't resist picking one up, and this is the one I drew.  It actually does sound like something I may have chosen to read on my own.  I'm about to settle down with a glass of wine and the book and get started.

Bonne nuit, all!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Dimanche Francais

Is there a more unpleasant thing than being rousted out of a peaceful sleep by a blaring alarm clock?  Okay, that's both a rhetorical question and hyperbole, because yes, of course there are worse things... but still, it's pretty bad.  It's at least the worst thing that happens to me on most days, today included.

Once I got the alarm to stop shrilling at me, and puzzled out why it was going off at all, I was glad to be awake.  I have a good friend that I have a standing date with to walk on Sundays.  We hadn't been able to walk for several weeks now, mostly due to lousy weather.  Winter in Ohio, for ya!  We couldn't walk today either, because of the injury to my Achilles tendon.  Happily, though, she wanted to get together for coffee/tea and catch up, since it had been some time since we had seen one another.  So we met at a coffee shop to visit and chat.  We had great conversation, as we always do.  We even ventured into the weeds of a political discussion, and found we have similar beliefs.  I had always suspected we would, but had been hesitant to broach the subject.  Not only is she a great conversationalist, she is also an absolute sweetheart.  She brought a book she recommended for me to borrow, and also came with a little gift in tow...

I had mentioned on a website we are members of that I was trying to locate Fines Herbes.  She came across this in her spice collection, and thought I might want it, so she brought it to me.  I admit, I had never heard of it before, and knew only what the bottle told me... that it was "Garnished Bouquet", and the ingredient list, which was:  savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill, marjoram, sage and tarragon.  I took it happily, since I'm on a French cooking kick, and could hardly wait to get home and Google it to learn more about it.  Googling "Bouquet Garni" gave me this:
The bouquet garni [bukɛ ɡaʁni] (French for "garnished bouquet") is a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soupstock, and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients, but is removed prior to consumption.
If anyone wants to read any further on the topic, the above quote came from here: Wikipedia Article For Bouquet Garni.  I was delighted with the discovery, since I make a lot of soups for myself, and stews for Hubby and I.  Obviously, though, this is a spice blend and not a bundle, so I searched for information about the spice blend, and found that you just crumble some between your fingers and put it in the foods you wish to flavor, instead of using a bouquet, cheesecloth or a tea ball.

After my Googling expedition, I realized it was still hours before I could wake Hubby, and though there is no shortage of things I could organize or clean to pass the time, I decided to go out for a late lunch, and took my book.  {I am currently reading "Alias Grace" by Margaret Atwood.  I'm at about the halfway point, and thus far am entirely enamored with it.}  When I finished with my lunch, I decided to go to the Half Price Books next door and look around.  I wasn't necessarily looking for anything in particular, but came out with these nonetheless...

I wasn't planning to buy any French cookbooks unless I had already checked them out at the library and knew they were good, but... well, I'm not very good at not buying books.  Cookbooks or otherwise.  So I am now the owner of two French cookbooks that will hopefully have some delicious recipes in them, and maybe some useful information as well.  Thus far I've only made two French recipes, Chicken Francese and Skillet Herbed Chicken with Mustard, but they were both amazing, and have left me curious about other French recipes.

This evening, though, I am taking the easy way out.  Hubby had to work several hours late this morning, so I'm letting him sleep several hours late this afternoon/evening.  Rather than cooking a big meal at an odd time, I decided to just boil up some refrigerated pasta {spinach and cheese tortellini} and make up some kind of tomato based sauce to go on it.  Doing this, I can have dinner ready in just a few minutes, whenever Hubby wants to eat.  He will either wake up starving because he hasn't eaten, or he ate when he got home from work and won't be hungry for a while.  {I was out for coffee when he got home from work.}

For now, I'm going to close this entry and curl up with my book.  Adieu!