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I’m Such a BRAT!

I was going to call this a Tasty Tuesday post, but in fact I have not yet tasted the treat that is currently cooking in the crock pot.  I know, some bloggers would make their blog post later or tomorrow, but we all know that is not how I roll.  I make blog posts on the fly before going to rehearsal, and I go with what I got, even when I ain’t got nuthin’.

Be all that as it may, this afternoon I decided that I would go on a bland diet. Never mind why; nobody wants to hear about other people’s digestive issues.  I only bring it up because it is relevant to the post at hand.  Some may feel the bland diet is especially appropriate to me because of the acronym that helps us remember its elements: BRAT (you know who you are) (and I gotta say, right back atcha, for the most part) (but I digress).  BRAT, for the digestively blessed who have no need to know such a thing (digestively is not a word?  I’ll be damned!), BRAT stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast.  Pasta and potatoes can also form part of the diet, but there weren’t enough vowels to add two more P’s, so you just have to pretend they are included under Rice or Toast.

After work, I headed to the store to purchase Bananas, Rice, and Applesauce (I already had bread for the toast at home).  After some internal debate about brown vs. white rice (I like brown but wondered if it was bland enough for a BRAT like me) (I took a chance and got the brown) and a quick look around for a treat for Steven (I love my husband), I checked out and headed home.

And found out I had forgotten the applesauce.  Damn it!  When there are only four items on one’s diet, one does not like to miss one.  However, I have some apples I purchased recently at North Star Orchards in Westmoreland (thus adding a little local flair to my post).  I know one can make applesauce in the crock pot.  I looked for a recipe online.  I’ve had pretty good luck finding things online lately (knock wood).

The first recipe I came across was pretty simple:  apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, water.  They said Golden Delicious Apples and I have Macintosh, but I was undeterred.  Additionally, they said core and peel, and I left the peel on.  There are plenty of nutrients and fiber in the peel, you know.  Continuing to do my own thing, I cut the apples into smaller pieces than the quarters called for by the recipe. For one reason, since I was leaving the peel on, I thought it would be easier to eat.  Then I got tired of chopping apples and stopped at six.  I halved the other ingredients.  See, I can do the math.

The apples are in the crock pot, and the crock pot is on HIGH.  Yes, I remembered to plug it in (don’t laugh; we all forget such things on occasion).  It should be done after rehearsal.  Steven and I will have some for a treat before bed.  Maybe we should stop at the store on the way home from rehearsal and get some vanilla ice cream to  put on it while it’s still warm.  I can start my bland diet tomorrow.

 

Hey, It’s a Blog Post

How about a cooking post, to make a change from my moaning and groaning about my health woes (yes, it gets a little old, even for me).  For one reason, I’m back on solid food.  Yay! My doctor specifically recommended macaroni and cheese.  I had some cheese in the refrigerator, so I decided to make some. I wondered when I started out if this would really be worth a blog post.  I mean, it is not the most imaginative recipe.  Then again, it is Non-Sequitur Thursday, and, hey, it’s a blog post.

I peeled and crushed some garlic, setting the timer for 15 minutes so it could “breathe”  (that is a correct use of quotation marks;  garlic cannot literally breathe, since it has no lungs) (that is a correct use of “literally” as well, so yay me).  I put on some water to boil and looked in the fridge for the aforementioned cheese.  I had mozzarella and colby-jack.  This would be great.  I grated the cheese while the macaroni cooked.

When the shells had cooked, I put it in a casserole dish and stirred in the garlic, then added butter and milk (which I did not measure), then the cheese.  It looked like a lot of cheese for the amount of macaroni.  Yum.  I covered it and put it in the oven, which I had pre-heated to 350 (forgot to mention that, but I don’t think anybody was cooking along with me as they read, were they?) and set the timer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, things got a little different.  When I took the stuff out to stir it, it seemed the cheese had melted into a big glooby glob in the middle of the dish.  What was that all about?  Is that what mozzarella is supposed to do? I added more butter and milk, stirred some more, and put it back in for another 10 minutes.  I wasn’t too worried.  After all, it would still taste good, even if it was a pile of macaroni next to a lump of cheese.  I might just have to eat it with a fork and knife.

After 10 minutes, the glob seemed a little less globby (or I guess, glooby, as I described it before), but the milk was making kind of a soupy puddle.  Oh well, I like soup.  I stirred, then put it back in for five minutes uncovered, in hopes some of the liquid would boil off or get absorbed.  Not much did.  Oh well.

Steven was home by this time, delighted by the smell of me cooking dinner for the first time in over a week.  Um, the smell came more from dinner than from me.  We ate it from bowls, because it was still pretty soupy.  It was pretty tasty.  I could feel my body melting in gratitude for the first carbohydrates in days.  I wanted seconds but refrained.  For one reason, I didn’t want to make myself sick.  For another, I did lose five pounds since last Wednesday.  I’d like to keep some of it off.

 

Actors Have to Eat, Too, You Know

Another thing about being in a play is that often one does not have time to grocery shop. Yesterday, therefore, I made a salad for today’s lunch using that old standby ingredient, What I Already Had In The House.  Today I make bold to offer a food post as part of this week’s All Roxy All The Time.

First I dumped a can of black beans into a colander and rinsed them.  While they drained I chopped up a tomato, zucchini and part of a red onion I had in the fridge.  I had purchased the tomato and zucchini at T & J’s Fruits and Vegetables in Herkimer earlier in the week, just to give the post a little local flair.   Next I sliced a few green olives.

For dressing I used mayonnaise and a little pub mustard (I like to buy different kinds of mustard; pub is the latest one I’ve tried).  To this I added a small spoonful of horseradish, a dash of hot sauce, garlic powder, salt-free lemon pepper, and cumin.  I taste-tested it as I stirred and it seemed OK.  I thought it could only get better as the flavors blended.

I’ve been eating it as I write this (at lunch time the next day) and I pronounce it  pretty good.  It got a little soupy, as salads with chopped tomato sometimes do, but not too bad.  Perhaps it is not a gourmet masterpiece, but as weekday lunch, it’ll do.

As a blog post written while I ate lunch at work then hurriedly typed in before rehearsal, I hope this will do.  Happy Wednesday and, oh look, I didn’t Wuss Out!

 

Don’t Tell the Cookbook Conglomerate!

So there I was, planning to do a Tired Tuesday post when I remembered I had a minor snack to put together in the kitchen.  I can’t say “cooking post,” because it is not cooked. Call it a recipe post and this can be Tasty Tuesday.  How does that sound?

I’ve had an unopened package of cream cheese in the refrigerator since my last party (didn’t make all the refreshments I had envisioned).   Rest assured, I have kept checking the “use by” date.  Then again, why should you care, unless you meant to stop by and have some.  Of course I should be delighted to have company.  Stop on by.

The recipe I wanted to use I stole from my sister Diane.   I don’t know where she got it, so I may very well be getting myself in big trouble from some cookbook conglomerate, but, hey, I need a blog post.

The recipe says to mix an envelope of Italian salad dressing mix with the cream cheese.  Come to think of it, they may even specify Good Seasons, and Diane got the recipe from the package of Good Seasons.  So there’s a little gratuitous product placement for you.  Full disclosure:  I usually buy store brand.

Only I hadn’t bought any store brand this time.  Here’s something funny:  I said to myself, “If I was really high speed, I wouldn’t use the envelope, I’d use fresh garlic and chives from the garden and make something up.  That would be a better blog post, too.  Nah, I’ll just be lazy.”  Imagine my chagrin.  On the other hand, you see how I err on the side of honesty for your entertainment (I do hope somebody is entertained by my silliness).

Trapped into being high speed,  I contemplated the chives.  It was pouring rain out, and I was wearing little canvas sneakers.  Surely fresh garlic and spices would be sufficient.  Why should I get my feet wet for the sake of a blog post?  I crushed up some garlic and set the timer for 15 minutes, so it could reach its full antioxidant effect.   Oh, what the hell.  I went out and got the chives.

It really wasn’t so bad.  For one reason, there is a patch of chives very close to the house.  I avoided stepping in the big puddle right next to them (a puddle in the yard?  Really?  Who else has one of those?) and also avoided picking too many.   Back in the house I chopped them up and put them in a bowl with the cream cheese.

I forgot to mention that the cream cheese had been sitting out for a couple of hours to soften up.  And it is actually Neufchatel, which is a third less fat and fun to say (try it).  I added horseradish and dill, then mushed it together with the potato masher.  After some consideration I added lemon pepper, oregano and basil.  Mushed some more.  When the timer buzzed, I put in the garlic, mushed some more, then used a fork to make sure the stuff was thoroughly mixed.

My mixture is now sitting so the flavors can blend.  When I get ready to, I will spread it on flat bread which I will use to make small sandwiches with sliced cucumber.  Yum!  You know, now that I think about it, it is possible that the original recipe for this calls for the sandwiches to be open-faced.  It may even have been like a cold cucumber pizza.  It was some years ago my sister first made the stuff.

So was this post better or worse than a typical Tired Tuesday?  It matters not.  This is my story and I’m sticking to it.  Hope to see you all on Wuss-out Wednesday (good God, I’ll be half-way through the week by tomorrow!  I should have known:  vacation weeks are always shorter).

 

No Measure New Year

I had thought to make a profound, thoughtful post, all about the New Year, how it was an artificial milestone yet useful… Well, I don’t want to write the whole post about what I’m not writing about (although I have done that before). Or I was going to write a mere Pedestrian Post, since my dog Tabby and I took two walks today. Then I thought I owe a few local businesses and destinations shout-outs. Um, what did I say about NOT writing this post about what I’m not writing about?

Then I started mixing and fixing, getting ready for my exclusive celebration tonight. Just me, Steven and Tabby. One of these years I’ll have a big party with family and friends, or go somewhere fun and fabulous. Not tonight, Josephine (that is a reference to the movie Some Like It Hot, and in that movie it was a reference to a book by Jacqueline Susann). I have more stuff to do, so I shall write a fast cooking post and get back on with it.

The first thing I did, as usual, was crush up a bunch of garlic and set it to “breathe” for 15 minutes (which I will not explain yet again). I paused in this laudable endeavor to pour myself a glass of red wine, because I wanted to cook with wine. Yes, I’m pacing myself. I’m still sipping the same glass after almost an hour and I’ll switch to seltzer water till Steven gets home from work. In case you were concerned.

I put some frozen spinach into a colander and poured hot water over it. I mashed up two avocados and chopped half a small onion into very small pieces. I grated some mozzarella cheese. Do my ingredients sound intriguing thus far? Well, I was making two different things at once. Who says I can’t multitask? Oh yeah, me. No matter.

To the avocados I added some of the garlic, minced onion out of a bottle, onion powder, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, a tiny bit of Tabasco, and some cumin. I was making guacamole. I put the onion I had chopped into a baking dish, added the cheese, spinach and the rest of the garlic. Then I chopped a small jar of artichoke hearts and added that, along with the marinade. I’ll bake that to be spinach and artichoke heart dip.

As you can see, I did not feel inclined to consult any recipes. I rarely follow them completely anyways and I’m just in that mood. After I hit Publish on this, I’m going to put some chicken wings in the oven with butter, honey and mustard. Once again, I shall not consult the recipe. I intend to add amounts that look good and guess on a 350 degree oven. I’ll stir it every 15 minutes and check it with a meat thermometer to make sure it won’t kill me.

So that is my No Measure New Year. I hope you’re all enjoying your celebrations or refusal to celebrate, as the spirit moves you.

My Cookie Adventure

I hope nobody thinks I am trying to turn this into a culinary blog by immediately following a cooking post with a baking post, but it occurred to me as I was making these morsels that it might make a good blog post. And, you know, it’s Christmas week. I celebrate and I’m not ready. I think this will be something I can write fast but still be worth a read. We’ll see.

So I had this bold idea to make cookies for Christmas. I used to do this a long time ago, make scads of cookies and give them out by the plateful. Till one year I was pressed for time and got so stressed, Steven suggested I cut back. I thought this good advice and took it. However, I find if I don’t make cookies too often or too many at once, it can be an enjoyable occupation.

Fast forward to 2014, when some people at my place of employment had a pig-in one of the last days before shut-down. Naturally I participated. And proceeded to make rather a pig of myself over these little round cookies with mini chocolate chips. I asked my co-worker for the recipe, if it wasn’t a family secret. It was not. I wrote it down in the crappy notebook I keep in the cargo pocket of my BDU pants (which I wear to work).

When I was at the store this morning I purchased mini chocolate chips. I was pretty sure I had the other ingredients (and here’s where I hope this recipe isn’t copyrighted and illegal to share): 3 sticks butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 cups flour, bag of mini chips. My friend said he uses margarine, but I used real butter. I put it out to soften and puttered around doing other things for a while.

After preheating the oven to 375 degrees, I got out a bowl and started putting in ingredients. Oh dear, there wasn’t a whole lot of powdered sugar in that box. Surely there would be 3/4 cup. There was. Phew! Now the bottle of vanilla doesn’t look if there is a tablespoon’s worth. Mmm… no. Crap! I went to six stores this morning and they all had grocery sections! Why oh why do I never check these things before I leave the house? I looked once more in the cupboard, just to be sure. Oh, there is an unopened bottle of vanilla. Silly me.

I began to stir the mess with a wooden spoon. It was tough going. That butter had not softened very much. I tried the potato masher. Mash, scrape off masher, mash, scrape off masher, repeat till arms get tired. I began to question my recipe. Surely there must be an egg or something to add more moisture. This is what I get for following a recipe that was verbally told to me while I wrote it down. I admit I am not the most reliable scribe.

Then I remembered my friend telling me he mixed it with his hands. I knew I was going to have to use my hands eventually, because you roll these into balls rather than dropping them onto the cookie sheet by the spoonful, like civilized cookies. I washed my hands carefully (YES, I washed them before I started, but since I was going to get them all in the dough I thought I’d better be extra clean).

It was a miracle! As I started to mush it around, it magically became cookie consistency. I was delighted and only wished I had gotten the cookie sheets out of the cupboard and sprayed with no-stick before I had gotten my hands all doughy. No matter.

I fear I was not consistent in the size of my little cookie balls, but I’m sure they’ll do. The recipe called for baking them 10 to 12 minutes; mine went the full twelve. My friend had put food coloring in some of his before baking and rolled them all in powdered sugar after baking, but I omitted these steps.

When they had cooled enough, I tasted one of the cookies. Yummy! It will take stern self-discipline on my part to make sure these cookies last long enough for me to share with people on my Christmas list. Hmmm…. perhaps I should not have written this blog post. Now all my friends and family will want cookies. I’m going to need more powdered sugar.

NOT Chicken Cordon Bleu

On Sunday when I asked Steven what he would like for dinner, he said something involving cheese, because we had a brick of colby-jack in the refrigerator. I knew we also had deli ham, so I suggested Chicken Cordon Bleu.

“You’ll need to get some chicken,” he pointed out.

“I’m going to the store,” I said.

“And some cordon bleu.”

We had a good laugh speculating on which grocery aisle that would be in or if I would have to stop at the Cordon Bleu Store. We do get silly.

Full disclosure: what I make is not really Chicken Cordon Bleu. I’ve never followed a recipe, for one thing. I use chicken, cheese and ham. Beyond that, I make no promises. I was happy to find boneless skinless thighs at the grocery store. I have a problem with the breasts drying out. I suppose real chefs know how to combat that dilemma, and here we come to the ugly truth about me.

I was going to make spinach and artichoke dip for an appetizer, so I put some frozen spinach in a colander and poured hot water over it to thaw it. Then I crushed up some garlic and set the timer for 15 minutes so it would reach its full health benefits (at our age, we need all the help we can get). I crushed enough for the dip and the chicken. I also grated enough cheese for both. I thought that was pretty efficient of me.

Digging out a bread pan to put the dip in, I remembered I had left my favorite bread pan at Mom and Dad’s house (where I had brought my spinach and artichoke dip for a gathering). It was originally her bread pan, so I guess I can’t feel too bad about it. Anyways, I have other bread pans. I ought to bake more bread, but that’s a whole other blog post.

I chopped up a jar of artichoke hearts then a yellow onion. I hadn’t put onion in the dip before, but it sounded good. I planned to put some in the chicken, too. Steven read somewhere that once you peel and chop an onion, you should use the whole thing right away, because onions become toxic if you save them. If that is truly the case, I probably ought to be dead by now. Just the same, I’ve been buying smaller onions lately.

Artichokes, spinach, garlic, onion and cheese in the pan, I added a couple spoonfuls of mayonnaise, stirred it good, and put in in an oven, which I had preheated to 350 degrees (I perhaps should have mentioned that at the beginning of the description, but I rather doubt any of my readers are cooking along with me as they read). We ate the dip with tortilla rounds. It was pretty good.

For the chicken I put the rest of the garlic and the rest of the onions in with the rest of the cheese and mixed it up. I took the chicken thighs and kind of spread them out. I can never make the pound them down thing work. I put the cheese mixture on along with some fresh mushroom slices I had. I folded the chicken over and rolled it in seasoned breadcrumbs as best as I could.

It was awkward. I dug around in the drawer for some toothpicks and made the resulting bundle as neat as I could. I put them in a pan and put the pan in the 350 degree oven. I baked them for about an hour, testing with a meat thermometer, because I didn’t want to cut them open and look for pink.

They tasted pretty good. I was halfway through mine before I realized I had left out the ham.

Not Much of a Recipe

Today I offer a cooking post. Sort of. Well, regular readers know this is not a cooking blog and I’m nobody’s chef. Still, this is Wuss-out Wednesday and I didn’t quite wuss out on dinner. I’m writing a post about it.

The post really started last week when Steven made rice for dinner. It was brown rice. He put a can of mushrooms in it. There was some left over.

The next step came on Sunday. I wanted to offer food to the lovely people who helped us with our fence, so I put some chicken legs in the crock pot. I put butter, honey and mustard in it. This is from a recipe I got out of a book put out by a church group. The recipe is actually for chicken wings baked in the oven, but I thought it would be fine for legs in the crock pot. I was right. Again, we had leftovers.

It was Steven’s idea to combine the chicken with the rice. I luckily remembered it and decided to implement it before he got home today. The first thing I did was to put the leftover chicken in the microwave to melt the butter, which had solidified. I guess I should have seen that coming.

I put the rice and mushrooms in my cast iron frying pan after spraying the pan with no-stick stuff. When the chicken was once again in liquid, I pulled some of the meat off the bones and added that. I poured in some of the liquid as well. I still have chicken leftover. I probably won’t write another blog post when we eat that.

Before I started heating it up, I added frozen spinach. I love spinach. Steven likes it when it is part of a dish, not just by itself. So I add it whenever it seems appropriate.

It did not take long for everything to heat through. Steven declared it tasty. I hope my readers will declare the blog post OK.

Popeye Would Have Liked It

I got such good results with my Chicken Cordon Bleu, I thought I would invent a recipe for Chicken Florentine.

I learned a long time ago from Mr. Food (may he rest in peace) that “florentine” means “with spinach.” I’ve made Mr. Food’s recipe for Steak Florentine. I’ve eaten Eggs Florentine at a Chauncey’s Restaurant in Vermont. I could get silly and say the old Popeye cartoons were Violence Florentine, but, you know, I used to like those. My sisters and I would sing the Popeye song every time our mother fixed spinach.

Where was I? Ah yes, inventing a recipe. We preheated the oven to 350 degrees. Steven put in potatoes to bake (he was helping me cook because of my bad ankle) (see yesterday’s post).

I grated some mozzarella cheese (not as much as I grated for the Cordon Bleu, because I did not intend to make a cheese sauce). Once again, I did not pound the boneless skinless thighs (once again, instead of breasts), but sliced them so that I could kind of sort of fold them open. I put cheese, spinach and baby portobello mushrooms on them (I bought the pre-washed, pre-sliced mushrooms. I’m not too lazy to slice, but it is such a pain to wash mushrooms) (and I used fresh spinach, although I suppose the frozen kind would work just as well). I folded the chickens over and rolled them in breadcrumbs as best I could.

A word about the breadcrumbs. I normally buy the Italian Seasoned, but when I shopped on Sunday, I noticed 4C were made in Brooklyn, NY (Hannaford puts out helpful signs telling you these things). They were “Seasoned” not “Italian Seasoned,” but when I read the ingredients, it looked to me like they used all the same stuff. I thought, why quibble over an adjective? I went with the New York State brand.

One further note: I saw the word “wheat gluten” in the ingredients, too, and made a mental note not to use breadcrumbs in anything I may fix for my friend Phyllis. I have become more aware of gluten since I found out Phyllis has Celiac’s. Is that a HIPPA violation to mention that? Oh dear.

After I got the chicken in the oven I put some spinach and mushrooms in a casserole dish, drizzled olive oil over them, sprinkled on a little lemon pepper, garlic power and minced onion (oh, stop shaking your purist gourmet fingers at me! I’m sure garlic powder and dehydrated onions are perfectly respectable), and tossed it with a bamboo spoon and fork (just to give you an accurate picture). I did not put that in the oven till the last ten minutes or so.

As a matter of fact, Steven put them in. I set the timer for twenty minutes, showered, then flipped the chicken while Steven poked the potatoes. I set the timer for a second twenty minutes and left Steven with instructions to check things again, decide how much longer it needed, and put the spinach/mushroom mixture in for the last ten minutes or so. Then I went upstairs and started writing yesterday’s blog post (which I composed at the computer. Today I am writing in a regular paper notebook on a break at work) (again, in the interests of an accurate picture).

Steven cooked the chicken and potatoes an additional ten minutes while the other vegetables cooked. The potatoes perhaps could have baked a little longer, but it was a yummy dinner. I felt pleased with myself. Perhaps I’m no Rachel Ray, but I do my best.