Monthly Archives: August 2014

Committing Neatness

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I am organizing my yarn closet.

Actually, I’m reorganizing the yarn closet, since the first (and second, and possibly third) time around didn’t work out so well. I’m hoping the fourth go-around will be the charm.

I’m like the fifteen year old girl who stands in front of her clothes closet and it’s crammed top to bottom with the inventory of a small department store and screams “I don’t have anything to wear!”

Hello, lover.

Having been that fifteen year old many years ago, I can tell you right now that there is plenty of yarn in there to knit with and quite a bit of it’s the good stuff, too. The problem is that there’s a lot of yarn in there that I bought when I didn’t know what I was buying or what I was going to use it for.

It’s like buying a fabulous pair of shoes that you know, deep down, you’re never going to wear. But, they’re red! They make my ass look great and ooh, lookie here! They’re on sale! I have nothing in my wardrobe that will go with a pair of mock crocodile pumps with 6 inch heels that pinch the pinky toe on my right foot and I don’t think I can really walk in these, and I can’t remember the last time I went out clubbing, but maybe some day I will!

Oy. And Vey.

Oy. And Vey.

See? It’s this kind of thinking that explains why there’s a skein of some Italian ribbon-eyelash concoction in my stash. I’m not in love with pastels, I really don’t use novelty yarn but, hey! It’s really kind of pretty, it’s on sale and I might use it one day. What the hell, get two. Here, take my credit card.

Maybe yarn should have an expiration date where it just goes *poof* on that particular day and is magically replaced with something the knitter will actually use.

Or maybe I just need to get out more often. Maybe I’ll take a drive somewhere.

Anyone want to go yarn shopping?

 

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“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”

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If you follow me on Twitter, you may be familiar with my Saturday morning tweets which usually say something like “Off to do the usual Saturday morning stuff. I’m so domestic, I can’t stand myself”. And that “stuff” always involves food shopping.

I love food shopping. I hear there are people who hate food shopping; I don’t speak to those people. No, that’s not entirely true. I don’t understand people who hate food shopping.

What could be more fun than going to the supermarket? You buy stuff to cook with, you make it and then you eat it!

Unless you don’t feel like running out to the supermarket or cooking, of course. And today’s one of those days for me. I picked up a pound of frozen shrimp and some cheese tortellini at the supermarket last week and put them in the freezer, knowing I’d be looking for them sooner rather than later. 

Yum.

Yum.

So, tonight’s dinner is going to be a shrimp and tortellini salad with semolina bread. The tortellini salad is my take on “Dom’s Seafood Pasta Salad” from ““Eat This!”. The original recipe calls for dressing that’s made with olive oil, fresh lemon juice, basil leaves, minced garlic and grated Parmesan cheese, which is pesto. There’s good commercial pesto out there, and that’s what I usually use. It is better with homemade pesto, but if you’d prefer to use your own, go for it.

The original recipe serves 8 to 12 people, but I’ve scaled it down to serve 4-6.


 

Tortellini and Shrimp Salad

  • 1 pound of cheese tortellini (do not defrost frozen tortellini!)
  • 1 pound of medium or large shrimp, in the shell
  • About ½ cup of pesto
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • finely grated Parmesan, if you like
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add a teaspoon of salt, and bring the water back up to a boil.
  2. Add the tortellini, give it a good stir, lower the heat to a simmer and let it cook for about 2 minutes. Once they start floating to the top, they’re about done. Fresh torts should be done by then and frozen ones might need another minute or two. If you’re in doubt, scoop one out and eat it, lol!
  3. When the torts are done, drain them in a colander. Put them into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Once again, bring a pot of water to the boil, add a teaspoon of salt, and bring the water back up to the boil. Add the shrimp, give it a good stir, and lower the heat to a simmer.
  5. Cook until the shrimp are pink; this will take only around 5 minutes or so. When they’re pink, they’re done!
  6. Drain them in the colander, rinse them with cold water and peel. Add the shrimp to the tortellini.
  7. Add the pesto, lemon juice, salt and pepper to the salad. Give everything a good toss and see if it needs anything.

Enjoy!

 

“Enter The Squash”

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The last time I looked at the calendar, it was August. 

Let's make soup, baby.

Let’s make soup, baby.

I know it’s August because I’ve been checking out the calendar pretty much everyday (okay, sometimes twice a day) since I’m counting down the days to the second of September.

Which is a day I’m not particularly looking forward to, but you have to start somewhere. I’d say that I’m sticking my fingers in my ears and singing “La-la-la! I can’t hear you!” like a second grader who wasn’t ready for the first day of school, but I always loved the first day of school.

And fall. Fall’s my favorite season. I know it’s fall because I bought my first winter squash yesterday. A perfect orange organic Red Kuri squash grown at a farm cooperative in Lancaster County, PA and purchased at my favorite independently owned natural food store. It’s keeping my basil and rosemary plants company on my kitchen window sill. I named it Larry.

The squash, not the store. Just wanted to clear that up for you.

So, Larry will happily spend the rest of his days in my kitchen, snuggling up to the new ornamental pepper plant. And he will live a good life.

Or at least until he goes on the menu.

 

Salad Recipes, Anyone?

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In less than two weeks I have my first appointment at Fox Chase and I’ve started doing all the things I want to get done before then.

Like getting the knitting projects organized and making sure that I have what I need. I know all too well from my previous post-surgical recovery experiences that if I’m stuck at home without any planned projects, it’s so, so simple order the yarn online and have it show up on my doorstep a few days later.

And, it’s easy to do that with food, too. You pick up the menu, and you find something that sounds tasty. A little while later you’re digging into shrimp lo mein or an eggplant grinder, which is all very well and good until your sweats start getting snug around the ankles.

I’ve been making and freezing a lot of soup so we won’t have to resort to take-out while I’m getting better. So far, there’s two bags of split pea and one of lentil tomato and I’m going to add some marinara sauce and a bag or two of rolls and a couple of loaves of my friend Nate’s fabulous beer bread.

This means we’ve been enjoying lots of soup for dinner over the past couple of weeks. It’s also still August, so we’ve been eating a lot of salad with those soup dinners.

We’re big salad eaters. There’s always a jar of vinaigrette or some other homemade salad dressing in the fridge along with a bottle of Ken’s or Newman’s. Our usual go-to salad is the standard lettuce-and-tomato combination and with good greens and tomatoes and homemade dressing, it’s very good and goes with everything.

So, here’s two salads and my current favorite vinaigrette. You can make them all year ‘round and if you make these a couple of times, you’ll no longer need a recipe for any of them.


Cucumber Salad

Lookin' good.

Lookin’ good.

The cucumber salad from my childhood! It was always made with fresh cukes, but you can use the long European seedless ones in the dead of winter, too. This will keep for a couple of days

And if you’d like to make this Polish, add a little bit of sour cream and some fresh dill to the dressing.

  • 2 medium or 1 large unwaxed cucumber, sliced thin
  • ¼ cup of cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground dried mustard (I use Colman’s)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Slice the cucumbers into ⅛ to ¼ inch rounds.

Combine the vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard in a serving bowl and stir until well-blended. Toss the cukes in, give it a good stir and add pepper to taste. Serve it immediately or put in into the fridge for later, where it’ll keep happily for a few days.


 

Dee’s Cold Broccoli

This is a salad my late stepfather’s family always served with a pasta dish. For some reason, it was always made with frozen broccoli and either a package of “Good Seasons” or bottled “Wishbone” Italian dressing, but it was always good.

And it makes sense; it’s easy to put together, especially if the cook is going to spend a lot of time at the stove making lasagna or gravy or manicotti. You can even make this the day before you plan to serve it and it’ll be just fine. Maybe even better. Remember this one around the holidays when you’re looking for something you can make ahead of time or stash in the fridge for later.

  • 3 or 4 broccoli crowns, bottoms trimmed and cut into quarters
  • 1 bottle of good-quality Italian salad dressing, or homemade
  • Red pepper flakes, optional
  • Freshly ground pepper

Steam the broccoli until it’s the way you like it. Really. If you like crunchy broccoli, only a few minutes. A bit softer? A few more. Just check it as you go along and make sure it’s not mushy.

Place the warm broccoli into a large lidded container. Shake up the dressing and drizzle it over the warm broccoli. If it looks like it needs more, add it. Just make sure it’s not drowning in dressing.

Add the pepper. Put the lid on and give it a good shake to mix everything. Stick it in the fridge and you’re done.


 

My New Favorite Vinaigrette

For the longest time I loved Nigella’s vinaigrette to the point where I was wondering if I should have it tattooed somewhere on my arm for easy reference. It’s great stuff, but it’s a bit heavier on the olive oil and…everything, it seemed.

So, here’s my latest version of one I learned a long, long time ago. You mix it all up in a glass jar, give it a good shake, and let it chill out in the fridge until you need it.

If you wanted to change it up, you could always add some feta or blue cheese crumbles. This is another recipe you can play around with.

Vinaigrettes keep well for about a week or so in the fridge.

In a clean glass jar, add:

  • 2 Tbsp. of vinegar (red wine or balsamic)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
  • ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
  • A few drops of cold water
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ⅓ to ½ cup of olive oil

Put the lid on and shake until it’s all combined. Taste it and see if it needs anything else.

Enjoy!

 

 

Got Yarn?

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I have a lot to do .

I mean, I’ve got tons to do. It seems every time I turn around there’s something else screaming, “Yo! Let’s do this!”

“You up there! Remember me? Don’t forget me!”

“Do you have any idea how much this twisted stitch hurts? Are you ever going to fix this?”

Ka-boom!

I have a pair of mittens that I started knitting in March (March, for goddess’s sake) as a thank you present for a friend of mine who gifted me with a box of knitting books she no longer wanted. March was almost six months (six months!) ago. I really need to finish those and send them off to her.

And there’s a pair of socks that I’m also making for someone else. I have the yarn and I have the pattern and I know she’ll love them, but I’m the kind of knitter who just can’t stick to the script or the pattern. So now I have a variation I have to play with before I can actually knit them and mail those, too.

I have a sock that needs its mate, another that needs to be finished so it can join its mate and about three quarter’s of one sleeve of one cardigan done, which I think is about 8.6% of a completed sweater, if my math is right.

My yarn basket looks like a yarn shop exploded.

The yarn closet situation isn’t any better.

Did I mention I have a lot of yarn? Like, half a closet full of yarn?

And that I just bought more?

I am, however, entirely and completely justified in all of this. I’m going to have a lot of downtime and I’ll need to keep myself busy since I am completely incapable of sitting still for long periods of time. If we’ve got the TV on, which is pretty much all of the time, I’m usually knitting something, reading about knitting something, figuring something out about knitting or troubleshooting my latest knitting project.

Sometimes I’ll mix it up with crocheting just, just because, you know. Or I’ll pick up a cookbook or a cooking magazine if I feel like getting all wild and crazy.

And I know that you already know I’ve got a lot of those, too.

Time Out!

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So, how’s it going?

Doesn’t it seem like the whole world is having a really shitty week?

I mean, we lost Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall. Genocide in the Middle East, Putin playing around his codpiece in the Ukraine. Police officers not understanding that once you have a badge and a gun, you need to use both responsibily and not give into whatever urges you may have to shoot at whoever or whatever you may think might be a good idea at the time. Archie Bunker might say, “Stifle yourselves!”

I can’t be the only one with a headache. Even NPR’s giving me a migraine, and I support them.

And my Phillies lost again last night.

And it’s only Wednesday, people.

So, here’s a picture of Frogger to make you smile.

Zzzz...

Zzzz…

Whoosh-h-h-h-h…

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And that, my friends, was the sound of my week going by.

Now, since I want be an exemplary “CP” (“Cancer Patient”), I fulfilled my role of CP on Monday and drove up to Fox Chase to drop off my biopsy results and some other things I had from Penn Dental. I could have just faxed them over, but I wanted to suss the place out; you know, since it’s a cancer hospital and all of that.

And it’s perfectly nice and quiet and set in a park-like location. And it’s a cancer hospital. And everyone was very nice and helpful and they do fabulous things there.

And they have free parking!

But, it’s a cancer hospital.

For now, the shock is over and I’ve accepted the reality. I still have and probably will continue to have moments over the next couple of months where I will be both frightened and amazed to find myself in a setting that involves some sort of test or injection or surgery and scans and who-knows-what-the-hell-else.

And as I see it, I have a couple of weeks to play with until I turn myself over to my medical team at Fox Chase. After the second of September, I’ll be their patient and my life’s going to revolve around my treatment.

I had a great week, I really did. On Wednesday, I spent a day with friends that I don’t see nearly as much as I’d like to. It really wiped me out, but I knew that was going to happen.

No matter…I’m going to enjoy the rest of this month.

And take a lot of naps, too.

“You Want Me To Make What?”

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When my boyfriend and I started seeing each other a whole bunch of years ago, he lived in a suburb of Philadelphia on the “Joisey side” of the Delaware River, and I lived and worked in the central and northern part of the state, respectively. And at the time, he had his own place and I sort of didn’t. So, every Friday night I’d leave my job near Morristown, New Jersey and drive down to Oaklyn for the weekend.

We’d usually stay in and cook. Going out is fine, but not very fine if you’ve just spent a couple of hours stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike, or if you’ve been standing on an eastbound train 45 minutes after leaving your job in Philly. 

So, one Wednesday evening, I asked him what he wanted for dinner on Friday. “Tuna noodle casserole!”

Huh? De fuq? I took off my glasses, cleaned them, rubbed my eyes and put them back on. Yep, those were the words. Tuna noodle casserole. 

I typed back, “Really? Did your mom make that when you were growing up?”

“No, but it sounds good.”

I didn’t grow up eating this, either. Actually, I grew up in a “Cream-Of-Mushroom-Soup-Free-Zone”. Unless we were having baked ziti or lasagna, my late stepfather didn’t consider casseroles “dinner”. So, I did some Googling and came up with a recipe that had, yes, cream-of-mushroom-soup-fresh-mushroom-pea-tuna-cheese-noodles-Ritz-cracker-crumb-melted-butter-topping. I pulled it out of the oven and it looked all very homey and creamy and good and I was starting to wonder when Richie, Joanie and the Fonz were going to sit down for dinner since Mr. C. was getting hungry.

And once I started eating it, I couldn’t stop. We both loved this. This was fabulous. This was easy, too. 

So, over the next year or so, I made it a few more times. I found Emeril Lagasse’s version which feeds your whole family as well as half of the neighborhood, a Cajun take on a shrimp casserole with rice, which I love. 

Then it just got all…blah. Really? Tuna noodle…again, honey? Didn’t we just have that last year?

You know what happens with really good recipes? The ones you rely on week upon week and month upon month and like to cook and they’re easy to cook and the ones everyone anticipates when you say you’re going to make “that recipe” for dinner?

The more you make it, the less everyone anticipates it. And, as it turns out, the more you hate cooking it, the less you’ll enjoy eating it.

So, it’s always a good idea to give a recipe a swift kick in the arse. And now I’m wondering what else could use a good swift kick up the…nah, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. 


I found this recipe for “Tetrazzini Primavera” in one of those “One Pan Recipes! The Pan That Can! Dinner Made Easy!” big, glossy magazines that “Better Homes and Gardens” publishes around this time of year. By the way, they’re a terrific buy, and at about $10 each, they’re like a small cookbook and great for home cooks. 

Doesn't that look good?

Doesn’t that look good?

This is a little bit more upscale and I think, tastier. It’s healthier and lighter than the original recipe, and the topping just makes it. 

The original recipe called for chicken and chicken broth. I gave up meat and poultry more than a decade ago, and my boyfriend doesn’t eat much of either these days. However, we do eat fish, so I used tuna and I swapped out veggie broth for the chicken broth and it was incredibly good. 

Enjoy!

  • 8 oz. of linguine, broken in half
  • 1 lb. of broccoli, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 large or 3 small peppers (preferably red), stemmed, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup of all purpose white flour
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of veggie broth
  • 3/4 cup of milk (I used skim)
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream (either light or regular will be fine)
  • 2 cans of canned white tuna in water, drained and flaked
  • 3/4 cup of shredded cheese (Cheddar is fine)

Topping:

  • 1 cup of soft bread crumbs (1 roll or a couple of slices of bread, diced, or mixed through your hands to make crumbs)
  • 1 Tbsp. of fresh parsley, minced
  • 2 tsps of fresh lemon peel, minced or grated or 1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice is fine, too
  • 1 Tbsp. of olive oil
  1. In a small bowl, mix all of this together and set aside. 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil a 9″ x 11″ pan and set it aside.
  2. Cook the linguine in salted water in a Dutch oven until it’s slightly less than al dente, about 4 minutes less than the package calls for. Add the broccoli for the last 2 minutes. Drain, but do not rinse. Put the pasta and broccoli back into the Dutch oven.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the butter. Add the diced peppers and garlic, give everything a good stir. Let it cook for about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the flour, salt and pepper and stir it into the pan with a whisk. Lower the heat and let it all cook for a couple of minutes. Whisk in the broth and the milk and keep stirring until it’s thickened up a bit and once it has, take it off the heat and whisk in the sour cream. 
  5. Pour the sauce into the Dutch oven along with the tuna and the cheese. Gently stir it, taste it and see if it needs any salt or pepper or anything. If it doesn’t, pour it into the prepared baking dish, cover it with foil, and bake it for about 25 minutes.
  6. Take the foil off and sprinkle with the topping. Let it bake for another 10 minutes or so, or until the top is lightly browned. And let it stand for a couple of minutes before you dish it all out.

Enjoy!

“Days Like This”

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So, yesterday I scheduled my first appointment at Fox Chase. It’s all about new patient registration and my first consultation on the second of September.

And, now it’s all real and it’s all going to happen and it’s all incredibly scary and one month from tomorrow…I wish it would happen sooner. I want to know what’s going on sooner. Sooner sounds like a good idea to me.

But until then…there are going to be a lot of days like this.