Monthly Archives: July 2014

A Wednesday Afternoon Quickie

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Now doesn’t that sound intriguing?

You know, I had this big think piece draft about knitting and how I learned to knit and how I’m cross-handed which isn’t ambidextrous and how hard it was to learn knitting and…it’s gone. It’s somewhere in the ether or lost in the cloud, but it’s gone forever. And I am not looking for it.

Which is probably a good thing, since it was pretty wordy. Most of that post was about how I rediscovered my creativity through knitting and crocheting and how I was missing that in my life and how wonderful it feels to be inspired to make things again and how fantastic it is to teach crocheting and inspire people to make things on their own.

So, yeah. Wordy. Oh yes, she did!

Instead of recreating the post, I’ll just leave you with a picture of my latest project. This is not my pattern; it’s a “Thank You” gift for a good friend of mine who gifted me with many, many knitting books late last year.

Knitting rocks.


eta: This is not my pattern and I don’t own the copyright to it. I’m not allowed to sell the pattern or anything other than mittens crafted from the pattern. Please do not slurp or use this picture for your own use, because I do own the copyright to photos of my own work.

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“If Dee Can Cook, So Can You!”

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I love Chinese food.

I love shopping for ingredients in Philadelphia’s Chinatown or at my local HMart. I spent 7 hours scrubbing and oiling and baking my authentic Chinese cast iron wok into non-stick perfection. I nearly wept when I finally found a bulk source for Szechuan peppercorns locally. A cup of Dragonwell tea makes me feel settled and whole and relaxed and it’s tastes so, so good with a little bit of honey. Good tea is never cheap, but a little bit is always good. 

I have a couple of Chinese cookbooks in my bookcase and they really come from opposite ends of the “Let’s All Learn How To Cook Chinese Food At Home!” spectrum. 

“Ladies and gentlemen! Here in the right corner we have Eileen Yin-Fei Lo, who just might chop off your finger with a meat cleaver if you use canned water chestnuts in one of her recipes! The author of ten cookbooks, who wants you to make your own shrimp stock and wants you to know that you suck as a cook if you don’t add pork to your soup stock, and the winner of multiple awards and honors, she’s ready to take down…”

Martin Yan! The PBS audience favorite for almost 30 years and another multiple culinary award winner! Who believes that if you don’t want to make your own sauces it’s okay! And that you can buy really good spring rolls in your supermarket! And that fresh is always better when you can. If Yan can take her down, so can you!”


This baked fish recipe is split down the middle from both sides and it keeps it’s Asian roots at the same time. This is my take on a recipe from a Moosewood Cooks At Home recipe, and you can get the ingredients at your local supermarket. The original recipe served only two, but this one will serve four…or provide two with a great lunch for the next day.

We like this with jasmine rice and some spring rolls that we get from the local supermarket. 

Sauce:

  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. of vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. of fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce, preferably tamari
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
  • 1 good tsp. chili garlic paste or sriracha sauce
  • A couple of good grinds of fresh pepper…black, white or Szechuan

1 – Mix it all together and set it aside.

Incidentally, make a bunch of this, put it into a glass jar and stick it in the fridge for a couple of months. It’ll keep just fine for other things, too.

Fish:

  • 1 1/2 pounds of sturdy greens (bok choy, Shanghai choi, Swiss chard, mustard greens), sliced thinly
  • 3 carrots, trimmed, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 pound of mushrooms, wiped clean, stems trimmed and sliced thinly
  • 1 lb. of firm white fish fillets, cut in 4 pieces. Tilapia, snapper, cod or halibut would be great
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°.
  2. Oil a 13 x 9 baking dish. Place half of the greens on the bottom. Add the carrots and the mushrooms.
  3. Add the rest of the greens, and then place the fish on top. 
  4. Pour the sauce over the fish and then cover the baking dish tightly with foil. Put the pan into the oven and check it after it’s been in there for about 15 minutes or so. If the fish and veggies look like they’re about done (check to see if they are), that’s enough. Pull them out of the oven and let them sit, covered, for a few more minutes. If not, give them a few more minutes.

Enjoy!

“A dog, I have always said, is prose; a cat is a poem”

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At the end of June, my boyfriend and I took our cat, Frogger, to the vet. We adopted him from the Delaware County SPCA a week after we moved in, and from the moment we brought him home, he’s been our “Little Guy”. He’s the loyal cat who greets us when we come home, pines for us when we’re gone, loves hugs and kisses and scritches and belly rubs, even with yorked-up furballs, stinky litter boxes, grey and white cat fur tumbleweeds rolling down the hallway in the breeze and even the occasional dead mouse-as-gift, he’s the “Best Cat Ever”.

“Look what I got for ya, Momcat! Look what I did while you were out! Aren’t you proud of me? Look at that! Look at me again while I pull my claws down your jeans! Let me do that figure 8 thingy around your legs again while you trip over the kitchen rug where the dead mouse is!”

I’m going to york up a hairball on your pillow tonight and it’ll be stuck to your face when you wake up. Will you still give me breakfast in the morning?

So, I found out today that my insurance plans are all taken care of and I’ll be covered on September 1st. Now, that’s a long time for someone to sit around wondering if she’s going to be okay, but they won’t move up your coverage date unless it’s a life-threatening situation, which I entirely understand.

I’m just nervous…I don’t need an organ transplant. Is there such a thing as a nervous transplant? I didn’t think so.

This is the first weekend since my diagnosis that I feel I have a handle on things. All of the paperwork is in order, health insurance done, Fox Chase has both…it’s going to be a good weekend to take a page out of Frogger’s book and nap a lot because all of that stuff I’ve been fretting about for the past 2 weeks has been taken care of for now. And there’s nothing else I can do until next week.

Move over, sweetie!

Move over, sweetie!

Yep, that looks about right.

Shrimp. Shrimp, shrimp. Shrimpy, shrimpy, shrimp.

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I love shrimp.

Actually, I love seafood and I always have. I was eating lobster when I was 3 years old and slurping up littleneck clams on the half shell when I was 5. My Polish babchi loved smoked fish with cream cheese on crackers and we always had pickled herring in the fridge for my Italian/German stepfather when I was growing up because he enjoyed it the same way.

We would celebrate Christmas Eve with my stepfather’s family and I’d eat mussels, octopus, shrimp, stuffed clams, squid, baccala. This was a celebration and I remember one year where it seemed we just ate and ate for hours.

My grandfather used to eat canned sardine sandwiches with chopped onion on pumpernickel bread and he would only make them for lunch if my grandmother wasn’t around since she hated the smell of onions. But, since I adored my grandfather, I’d eat one, too, because I loved both him and the sandwich.

And because I really got a kick out of pissing my grandmother off when I was 5. We loved each other, but spent the next 25 years trying to figure each other out while pissing each other off at the same time.


Here’s a great, easy, tasty and super simple recipe for shrimp. My recipe is adapted from the original recipe “Greek Shrimp” published in Moosewood Restaurant Cooks At Home. Just make sure you have all of the ingredients ready before you make this.

This might serve 4 if you decide on a appetizer, or it’ll serve 2 good eaters (which we are around here) with leftovers for lunch. Maybe.

Wonderful with whole wheat couscous and salad, since neither of them need cooking when it’s beastly hot outside, and you can make both of them before this is done.

  • 3 Tbsp. of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small can of diced tomatoes (14 oz.)
  • 1 lb. of shrimp, defrosted, peeled and deveined
  • About 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • juice of 1 small lemon, to taste
  • 1/4 cup of chopped fresh dill or oregano
  • dash of salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil.
  2. And the garlic and saute until it’s golden.
  3. Add the tomatoes and bring the sauce to a simmer. Give the sauce a good stir, lower the heat and let it simmer for a few minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and let everything simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cheese, lemon, herbs and salt and pepper. The shrimp should be done by now.

And, that is it! Serve it over couscous or rice or orzo.

Enjoy!

Like A Room Without A Roof

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Because cancer sucks.

Because cancer sucks.

Two weeks ago today I was diagnosed with cancer. I will always remember that I was in the Oral Surgery department of the University of Pennsylvania’s Dental School, sitting in a dentist’s chair, when one of the residents looked at my biopsy and gave me the news.

It’s always the who and the what, the where and the how. It seems that we remember the little details when we get bad news of any kind. I’ll always remember that resident and how I didn’t like his chairside manner or the other dental students hanging out in the room, around my chair, checking out my reaction. Learning you have cancer should be in private, even in a teaching hospital environment.

In other words, fuck cancer. And screw the rest of you, too, standing around, goggling at my reaction. If you can’t help me, get out of my way. Now. I have people to tell and I have to drive home.


One of the worse things about finding out you have cancer is talking about it or even admitting to yourself that yes, you are a cancer patient, whether you like it or not. You have cancer, and it’s down there or up here or over in there and you have to deal with it. And it’s really, really hard to say to someone you love “Hey, the biopsy came back, and it’s not good. And I’m going to need your love and support and all of the hugs you can give me.”

I called my boyfriend from the car and then I drove back home with the biopsy results in my knitting bag. I snuggled with my cat, made an appointment with my primary care doctor and just sat on the couch, stunned.

And then I got to work making sure I’d get the care I needed, because no one else was going to do it for me.


So, here I am, two weeks later, and I feel good. If it weren’t for this thing in my mouth, I’d be even better.

And all politics aside, I bought a great health insurance policy this morning through the marketplace. My cancer care costs will not bankrupt me, thanks to the ACA.

Every health professional that I’ve spoken to over the past two weeks looked like they wanted to pass out when I told them my diagnosis and that I didn’t have health insurance.

But now I do, and that’s taken care of. Now the next step is to get my treatment started so that I can be well again.

I will get through this, you know…might take some time, but I’ll be fine.

“Sweater Girl”

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About two years ago, I fell in love with a sweater.

And not just any sweater, mind you. It was the Kathy Zimmerman masterpiece on the cover of “Interweave Knits” Winter 2012 edition that I was drooling over. I coveted this sweater. It had everything I always loved in a sweater. It had intricate cables and braids and great Norwegian-like buttons and it looked all nice and warm and cozy and in my romantic imagination it was all I needed to keep me warm as I walked to the local pub on a chilly October Saturday afternoon.

Or, throw on over my Eagles tee shirt and jeans when I run to the store. It didn’t matter, of course. All I knew that this was destined to be “My Sweater” and that once I became a better knitter, I’d knit it.

I don’t have a history of starting out with small projects and working up to the harder ones. When I taught myself how to bake bread when I was 13, the first thing I wanted to make was a batch of croissants, which I eventually did…a month later. They weren’t perfect, but they were pretty damned good for a newbie home baker making croissants in the middle of the summer.

They weren’t that hard. It was just a series of steps that you had to follow and if you did, you ended up with croissants. I made them by hand and I remember kneading the softened butter with my hands in a bowl ice water to remove all of the moisture out of the butter. Then it was wrapped it up with a piece of plastic wrap and knocked it around a bunch of times with a rolling pin to make it pliable before you spread it over the yeast dough. Fold the dough like an envelope, roll and fold it two more times, stick it back in the fridge. And then you did this a couple of more times before you made them and baked them off. And they were delicious.

Not really difficult, if you think about it. Perhaps a little fussy in places, but there wasn’t anything there I knew I couldn’t handle.

This sweater reminds me of this. I read the pattern and it’s just a couple of stitches here, some pattern stitches there, a few cables, pattern stitches, couple of stitches. Look at that; one row done. Go back and do it in reverse and there you are; another row done. Count your stitches to make sure they’re all in place.

Now knit some more and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to a sleeve.

"Plaits and Links" pattern. HiKoo "Kenzie" in Boysenberry

“Plaits and Links” pattern. HiKoo “Kenzie” in Boysenberry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s sort of like the old metaphorical question. How you eat an elephant? One bite at a time, of course.


So, last Saturday, Paul and I went to do our usual weekly shopping. We were just spent from all ends from my diagnosis and neither of us wanted to spend a lot of time shopping or faffing around anywhere.

We picked up a few peaches and since there was a bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer, I thought a cobbler would be good, especially since there was some strawberry ice cream in the fridge.

Yeah, this is absolutely terrific, but depending on the fruit you use it might end up being so moist and juicy that it becomes a pudding!

And that’s not really a bad thing if it sits in the fridge for a few hours.

Fruit Cobbler

  • 1 stick of unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of milk (lowfat is fine)
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar (white sugar is fine)
  • 2 tsp. of baking powder
  • dash of salt
  • tsp. of vanilla or almond extract
  • 3-4 cups of fruit (either fresh or frozen)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Pour the butter into a 9×9 baking dish.
  3. Add all of the other ingredients into the baking dish, except the fruit. Give it a good stir and smooth it out into the baking dish.
  4. Place the fruit on top of the dough and pop it into the oven. Let it bake for about 40 minutes or so or until the top is lightly browned.
  5. Check to see if it’s done, and let it cool. Serve it with a lot of ice cream. Because it’s summer, and you have to do that.
  6. Enjoy!

cobbler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy…

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I’m one of those odd folks who just doesn’t like summer. Blah. I hate sweating and feeling sweaty and getting all sticky and wondering if and when it’ll be socially appropriate to take off my bra.

But, summer’s really the best time to eat and if you love to cook, so much the better. It’s also the time of year when our local tomato season kicks in and we have about 6 weeks to enjoy them before they go away for another year. I could probably eat freshly steamed green beans at every meal for the next two months. And once again I find out that I can’t get enough fresh fruit while it’s still around.

It’s the heat and humidity of a Philadelphia summer that totally wreaks havoc with the things I really like to cook and eat. I love soups and casseroles and stews and breads and all of the cozy meals you can enjoy when it doesn’t feel like 154°F outside. Mid-July is also the time I start drooling over my recipes for polenta lasagna, mushroom barley soup, roasted butternut squash and basically anything that might go well with a bowl of mashed potatoes.

With gravy, of course.

But, we still have to eat during the hot weather, right? Right. And keep it cool, boy…way cool, boy.

“Southeast Asian Fruit Soup”

This comes from the “Moosewood Restaurant New Classics”, and it’s a great one. There’s no cooking involved, just some chopping and blender action.

Just be careful that the ginger and mint are entirely blended into the soup, since both ginger and mint can be pretty fibrous.

Serve it with whatever you’d like. Just make sure it spends a lot of time in the fridge before you serve it.

  • 1 good-sized cantaloupe, seeded and cubed (about 6 or 7 cups)
  • 1 14-oz can of lite or light or reduced fat coconut milk
  • 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp of minced fresh mint
  • 2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp pure almond extract
  • generous dash of cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup of brown sugar
  • the tiniest pinch of salt ever
  1. Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl, and give it a good stir.
  2. Puree it in batches until it’s smooth.
  3. Chill it for at least 6 hours or overnight.
  4. Enjoy!

I also need to post the recipe for the fruit cobbler I made over the weekend, since it was quite a hit over on Instagram. Tomorrow, I promise!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What Kind Of Day Has It Been”

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Right now, it’s Friday afternoon and as I write this, I’m sort of amazed I haven’t fallen apart yet. I know I’m made out of some pretty strong stuff, but I will.

And it will, I know that. I had a huge health scare two years ago, so this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m well acquainted with those days when you don’t want to make the phone calls or think about the diagnosis or surgery or treatment or make plans to fetch your health records for your next appointment or even think about how and if and when you’re going to be covered financially for all of the stuff that needs to be done so you can be a healthy, whole person again.

I’m also certain that along the way I’ll accumulate 27 8 x 10 glossy pictures with photos and arrows and paragraphs on the back of each one to be used by my doctors along the way.

But, all of those visits and decisions and running around to and fro happens next week and not this weekend. I plan on taking a lot of naps.

I probably won’t post over the weekend, so I’ll leave you with something from Nigella’s “Express” cookbook. You can put over your ice cream, or eat it out of a jar with a spoon. Whatever…it’s delish.

  • 3/4 cup of heavy cream
  • 4 oz. of milk or semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup of smooth peanut butter
  • 3 Tbps of golden syrup (Lyle’s, if you can find it) or light corn syrup
  • a tinytinytiny pinch of sea salt
  1. Warm up the cream in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan and let it bubble a little bit. Add the chocolate and stir with a whisk until the chocolate’s melted…don’t let the mixture boil.
  2. Add the peanut butter, syrup and salt and keep stirring until it’s smooth. Take it off the heat, give it a good stir and let it cool.

Pour it over ice cream or your fingers or whatever you’d like! And, if you let it harden up in the fridge, these make the most amazing chocolate peanut butter truffles.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

 

Cheese and Onion Bread

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Omnomnom...

Omnomnom…

I am in full comfort food mode. Even though it’s the time of the year for chilled soups and salads and all things light and green and lovely, I’m craving mac and cheese and mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy.

And we won’t even discuss my craving for a dish of real fettuccine alfredo. With crab. Or maybe shrimp. Preferably made by someone else. Really, I’m not picky.

But, I like to keep things in balance and real. If I’m going to make a cream sauce, it’s gonna be with real cream and Parmigiano-Reggiano and I will happily eat salads for the rest of the week. And it’s the same with macaroni and cheese, which just happens to be on the menu for this weekend. Really good aged cheese, whole milk, butter and the kind of pasta that doesn’t fall apart if you look at it the wrong way. Mueller’s, I’m looking at you.

I made this bread last night to go with the kind of soup I like to make when I have a bunch of veggie leftovers in the fridge. It’s an unwritten recipe and I just go by feel, adding what I like as I go along. A chopped onion browned in olive oil, carrots and celery, garlic, some dried herbs and spices. A can of plum tomatoes, broth and veggies and fresh herbs added along the way.

The soup was my take on a summer minestrone; lots and lots of veggies and beans, but very low in fat. I thought this would go well with it, and it did!

This recipe comes from the late Dom DeLuise’s “Eat This…It’ll Make You Feel Better!” cookbook, which is one of my favorites. It’s a bit, ahem, “dishy” (Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson carve a turkey! Dinah Shore’s moussaka!), but it’s a really terrific read as well as a great source for old-school Italian-American recipes, which seems to be the ones that we all remember and crave.

Try his “Red Clam Sauce for Dino” since it’s the best clam sauce you’ll ever make. And don’t forget the garlic bread…or the breath mints.

Cheese and Onion Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 Tbsp.(1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • pepper (I use freshly ground black pepper)
  • 2 cups of flour (I use unbleached white flour, but you could probably use 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat)
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp.(1/4 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (a smoked Cheddar might be really good in this), divided
  • 2/3 cup milk (I used skim and it was fine)
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (or oregano or chives)
  1. Preheat the oven to 425°.
  2. Saute the onion in 2 Tbsp. of butter until it’s soft and golden. In a bowl, combine the onions with the egg, sour cream and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Put the flour and the baking powder in another bowl. Run a whisk or a fork through it to blend it.
  4. Slice the butter in small chunks, and rub the butter in with your fingertips until it’s crumbly and looks like bread crumbs. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Stir in half of the cheese.
  5. Add the milk to make a soft dough. This is going to be a very crumbly dough, almost like a biscuit dough. Don’t overwork it, because…
  6. Pat the dough into a buttered 9″ square pan, making sure it’s even all way around the edges and into the corners. Spread the sour cream mixture on top.
  7. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and the herbs. Bake in a 425° for 25 minutes. Your kitchen will smell divine, which alone is a fabulous reason to make this.
  8. Try to let it chill out on a wire rack until it’s cools off a bit (I couldn’t!) since it’ll let the topping set.
  9. Enjoy!