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Mrs. W's Kitchen



A journey through culinary experimentations in my humble kitchen.



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Transitions!

Wed, 14 Oct 2009 12:29:00 +0000

My life is all upside-down. I hate to drag you through it.

No more baby project--that is soundly over, and in many ways I'm relieved. I can put it behind me at last.

Now, an oh-my-God-I'm-turning-40-in-<2 years meltdown is underway. My focus has shifted from fabulous meals to going to the gym, sweating through cardio and weight-lifting workouts. When control seems impossible in so many areas of life, I grab it where I can. For me, that's getting control of my body shape, core strength and overall health.

I've been hiding under a rock--for that I do apologize. I missed identifying some biggies, too--Canadian Thanksgiving and Columbus Day! Here in Central NY state we're in rapid temperature decline towards winter. Yeah, it's getting COLD! The news reports a frost and possible snow this week! *eek* I'm not ready for that.

For today, I have a giant hubbard squash--18 pounds--to attack. I'm thinking soup, perhaps pumpkin curry . But first I have to cook it.

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Hubbard is the king of squash. It's sweet with creamy flesh similar to pumpkin, only better. In fact, most canned solid-pack pumpkin available today is actually hubbard! It's got a verrrrry hard exterior shell. I have learned to simply throw it in the oven whole, at 250*F, until it softens enough to cut into it. Of course that also complicates matters--it cooks, it cools, then you cut, remove the strings and seeds, then cook some more.

So that's on my agenda for today. What have you been doing?(image)



Sunny Asian Restaurant

Mon, 28 Sep 2009 11:00:00 +0000

In Utica, New York, near the courthouse, there is this little asian restaurant called Sunny. They serve various thai, vietnamese and various pan-asian cuisine.Now y'all know how much I love Pho, so when the opportunity presented itself to pay a visit to Sunny's, well, was there really any choice?I wasn't disappointed.Sunny is in a small, nondescript building on the corner of Albany and Elizabeth Streets. If driving from Genessee Street, you can follow Elizabeth Street all the way to the end; Sunny is on the left. We parked on Albany St, though they do have a small lot (entrance on Elizabeth Street only). Inside, it's clean and tidy--even the bathrooms were impressively clean.At 11:30am mid-week, we were surprised to be the only customers. Undeterred, we sat down and ordered. The wait staff were attentive to our every wish, and hot tea and water arrived quickly. Our order didn't take long--and wow, just look at this:Beef pho with sliced brisket.Here is chicken pho, or Pho Ga.Our partially-devoured plate of accoutrements. (We already had used all the lime wedges.)It was good. Really, really good. And shortly after we began our meal, more customers arrived--obviously on their lunch break from work.Here's a blurry photo of my brother chowing down.The soup broth was delectable, the portions very generous, and the availability of condiments was fantastic. We like our pho hot, so the waittress brought little bowls of diced chilis in oil. That did the trick! (Though be warned--that stuff is hot!)So if you love pho as much as I do, enjoy Thai and various pan-asian cuisine, or just want to try something new and you're in the Utica area, visit Sunny. And if you want a lunch partner, just let me know--I'd be glad to meet you there!Sunny Asian Restaurant530 Albany StreetUtica, NY 13501315.292.7304[...]



A Different Kind of Recipe: DIY Laundry Detergent

Fri, 25 Sep 2009 10:00:00 +0000

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I know that this technically does not belong on a food blog--but this is for home/kitchen use any way, and I felt that this is too valuable to not share with you.

In an effort to remain always frugal, stretching my dollar as far as it will go, I have been making my own laundry detergent.

What a difference.

I start with four ingredients:

- 1 bar of Fels Naptha soap. Zote is another brand that could be used. I've heard about people using an Ivory bar, but I think a laundry bar is better for this purpose.

- 20 Mule Team Borax

- Washing Soda. This is different from baking soda, but also made by Arm & Hammer. I'm sure there are other brands.

- Optional: Baking Soda. This is an additive that I particularly like as a deodorizer.

Simply grate the bar of soap. I use the smallest holes on my box grater by hand. For me, this is a therapeutic process done while watching television. You could, of course, use your food processor for a quicker effect.

One bar of soap yields three cups of grated soap. To this I add 1-1/2 cups each Borax and Washing Soda, and an entire 16-ounce box of baking soda.

Mix it all up, and you have a great laundry detergent. But the best thing is this:

YOU ONLY USE 1-2 TABLESPOONS PER LOAD!

That's right. 1 or 2 tablespoons. You'll have to try it and see for yourself what measure will be right for your family. But it is low-sudsing, which means you'll see no suds (safer for the environment and better for your septic tank), and although the fels naptha bar does have a fragrance, it does not come through in the finished laundry. At all. And I quite like that. I'd rather smell like my lotion or purfume--not the laundry detergent.

Oh, and before I close, I must give credit where credit is due. I first read about this over at Frugal Upstate--thanks, Jenn!

So if this has any interest to you whatsoever, give it a try. It's changed my life!(image)



Time for Chili!

Wed, 23 Sep 2009 14:17:00 +0000

I don't know about you, but it's been downright cold here the last several days. Even today is warmer, but the early autumn drizzle makes it feel colder.

And that makes me want chili.

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Mr.W is particularly fond of chili with black beans. I like whatever beans are around--kidney, black, pinto... whatever. Sometimes I like to add hominy to mine, but don't always.

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I even occasionally go the cheating route and buy one of those pre-packaged spice blends. They're actually quite good!

So if you're as cold as I am these days, whip you up a big crock pot of chili. It's quick to fix and warms up the whole family.(image)



What's Up?

Mon, 21 Sep 2009 13:31:00 +0000

Greetings, my friends!

It's been an interesting week here--a few doctor's appointments have kept me occupied, and we've been eating grab-as-you-go meals.

My Hebrew friends celebrated Rosh Hashana on Friday; a sweet new year to you!

We've been eating a giant bag of NY State ginger gold apples almost non-stop! They are so delicious--but their texture is perfect for only so long; they must be eaten quickly!

But the biggest news of the weekend is that Meathead met up with the business-end of a skunk! Fortunately it was not a direct blast--but the stench was enough to drive us mad. The outside of the house smelled, as did the inside. The dog was crying, and a bath didn't help--it just added wet dog stink. It was too late to do much about it, so we satisfied ourselves with burying our faces in our pillows to avoid the odor as much as possible.

Needless to say it interrupted my sleep habits!

What else? We are rearranging the house again--this time switching the living room with the dining room. I suppose that sounds odd, but the configuration of my home is strange enough. The larger room--what we have been using as the living room--is directly off the kitchen, and the dining room beyond it. But we are moving things around to take better advantage of the flow of rooms. Our new living room will be smaller, but cozier, and adding a pair of french doors to the doorway will help with the heat in the winter.

The nights are getting pretty cold here--40s F / 4 C--and the house gets downright chilly! The crock pot has been a central element for me, with either a big batch of spaghetti sauce or a pot of soup ready for a warming meal. Last night I boiled turkey legs with vegetables and a slice of salt pork for a lovely broth, and mixed in some cooked white beans. It made for a delicious soup, but nothing really recipe-worthy.

So that's been my week... terribly uninteresting, I'm afraid! What have you been doing?(image)



It's Apple Season in New York

Tue, 15 Sep 2009 11:00:00 +0000

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The trees are full of delicious, ripe & ripening apple harvests... and that means pies, crumbles, crisps, crispy delicious apples for eating out-of-hand, and the best of all: cider.

Our favorite place to visit this time of year is the Clinton Cider Mill in Clinton, NY.

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It's an awesome place to visit--you can watch them pressing fresh cider, or just order and enjoy your favorite treats. Cider is available cold, frozen (like a slushie) or, my personal favorite, hot.

They also sell fresh cider donuts (plain and cinnamon-sugar) which are to. die. for.

Don't you just love apple season?

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I'll tell you why I prefer to drink my cider hot: it controls my portions. If you are diabetic or otherwise insulin-challenged, fruit juices will really mess with your blood sugar--so by getting a small cup of hot, you're more likely to sip it, rather than guzzle it down. Mmm...

So if you're in NY state, get you some apples and a jug of cider--it's time.(image)



Biscuits & Gravy

Fri, 11 Sep 2009 14:57:00 +0000

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If you've never had biscuits & gravy, it's time.

I didn't grow up eating this southern staple. No, I learned of it's existence when I was in my early-20s visiting folks in Pennsylvania. A stop at Cracker Barrel along the way was my introduction into the world of creamy sausage-filled gravy over hot buttermilk biscuits.

I was hooked.

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And if you can learn to make it for yourself, it will work wonders in your life. It can even find you a husband.

I kid you not. I met my husband because of biscuits and gravy. Oh, yes, it's true!

The Petty Officer who came to my office every Tuesday at Naval Air Station Key West to collect recyclables was a southern boy from Alabama. We'd known each other for a year or so already, but had only just started flirting. Of course my conversations always turn to food eventually, and he made a statement that I'll never forget.

"No Yankee girl can make good biscuits and gravy."

Oh, that got my dander up! So I invited him to my house for a dinner of biscuits and gravy. Show up he did--and he brought along his roommate, my Mr.W.

So ladies, if you're single, learn how to make biscuits and gravy. It's okay if the biscuits are canned--it's the gravy that he'll ask for again and again. I promise.


Southern-Style Sausage Gravy
serves 4

1 pound roll pork breakfast sausage, any kind desired (some people like it hot; I like regular)
5 to 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
about 4 cups milk
salt and pepper

Fry sausage in a large dutch oven until browned; remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate.

Measure the fat remaining in your pan; you want 5 tablespoons. If you don't have that much (I only usually come up with around 3), add butter to make up the difference. Stir in flour to make a thick paste. The rule for milk gravy is 1 T fat : 1 T flour : 1 cup milk, but I just eyeball it.

Add milk a cup at a time, stirring in completely before the next, until desired consistency is reached. Return sausage to pan and taste; season with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve hot over buttermilk biscuits.(image)



Remembering 9/11

Fri, 11 Sep 2009 14:46:00 +0000

Has it already been 8 years?

I think we can all remember that day... where we were, what we were doing, the thoughts that ran through our heads and the conversations we had with people.

I was working at the CDC in Atlanta at the time, getting ready to send a team of volunteers on their various international assignments to work on polio eradication and routine childhood immunizations when we got the news. As a U.S. federal agency, we were considered a target and sent home early; the volunteer assignments for that cycle were canceled altogether.

So I went home and worried about my friends who worked at the Pentagon--fortunately, they were safely away at a golf tournament when the Navy wing was struck.

But my dear friend--the woman who helped me through my divorce, the one who fed me when I had no money and invited me to her kids' high school graduations, the keeper of my secrets and my shoulder to cry on--lost her sister in the World Trade Center collapse.

The days that followed brought a strangeness to life itself; no one knew if war was about to break out, if events would repeat themselves, or if things would ever be the same. And I received literally hundreds of emails from colleagues around the globe offering their sympathy and expressing their horror that anyone would do such a thing.

I think that's what touched me the most. Ethiopians and Somali, Egyptians and Indians, Bangladeshi and Kyrgyz--they all took the time, typed the words, thought particularly of me, enough to send a note.

We can all agree that the world has changed since then, whether or not for the better is up for debate. I do know this: the generosity and kind-heartedness of people all over the globe make up for the sins of the few.

That's my two cents for today... would love to read your recollections or other thoughts for today.(image)



Onion Soup

Thu, 10 Sep 2009 11:00:00 +0000

Onions. They're the basis of many cuisines worldwide. They're yummy, plentiful and delicious, not to mention inexpensive.I've recently discovered quite a bit of information on the potential health benefits of onions. I was previously under the impression that, for the diabetic patient, onions should be eaten in moderation (since they break down into simple sugars), but this website suggests otherwise--that onions help regulate blood sugar. Go figure!From cancer prevention to the onion's anti-inflammatory properties, onions seem to be the vegetable of choice. I even read once--I'm afraid I don't remember where, though--that onions help you during allergy season, acting as a natural anti-histamine. Whatever it's health benefits, however, I eat them for one reason only: they taste good.Mind you I don't* eat them raw. Blech. Gross. Yucky.Cooked down, a pile of onions become a mahagony-colored sweet treat. The stronger the onion, the sweeter they caramelize. And I don't mess with a pinch of sugar like some foodbloggers would lead you to do--it's completely, utterly unnecessary.But I'm getting ahead of myself here.The weather here in Central New York has been interesting. Overnights are cold, but the days get hot, hot, HOT! If we hadn't already drained the pool it would be good swimmin' weather, it's that hot.Which makes it uncomfortably hot indoors when I want to cook--so I do the next best thing. I recently made a beef rump roast overnight at 250*F in a tightly sealed pot with water, salt and pepper. It didn't heat up the house and made a lovely broth in the pot that I couldn't resist.That's what made me think of onion soup.So I caramelized down some onions in butter with just salt and pepper. I prefer plain old yellow onions. You could use red or any other kind of onion you like, though the milder onions don't get as sweet. Once they were brown, I added broth and beef drippings (that yummy gelatin saved from a previous beef-cooking extravaganza) for a quick simmer. Soy sauce helped add salt and color, and I finished the seasoning with a little extra salt and pepper. Ladled into a crock and topped with stale baguette and a thick slice of provolone, I sent it under the broiler for five minutes.Onion Soupserves 2 as large lunch portions2 to 3 large yellow (or variety of choice) onions, peeled and sliced thinly3 tablespoons butterpinch saltseveral grinds freshly ground black pepper3 to 4 cups beef broth3 tablespoons beef drippings (optional)1 tablespoon soy saucesalt and pepper to tasteleftover stale baguette slicesgruyere, swiss or provolone cheese slices (gruyere would be more traditional; I used provolone because I keep it on-hand)Saute onions in butter with salt and pepper, stirring often, until dark brown and caramelized. Add beef broth and drippings and simmer for 10 minutes. Season with soy sauce and additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve topped with baguette slices and cheese, broiled until cheese is bubbly but not burned.*There is one exception to my no-raw-onion rule: when they're sliced thin and marinated in Mojo Criollo to the point of no longer tasting like onions, I find them irresistible as a garnish on Cuban roast pork.[...]



Watermelon Cooler

Tue, 08 Sep 2009 11:00:00 +0000

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I bought what I considered a small-ish watermelon at the Farmer's Market Friday, and that was a mistake. When I made the purchase, I hadn't thought about lugging it all the way back to my car.

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That was a bit of a struggle. Plus I couldn't do any more shopping once the watermelon was purchased.

It was delicious, though--we munched on it for two days! Even so--and this is always the case--no matter how hard Mr.W and I try, we simply cannot eat an entire watermelon by ourselves.

Instead of letting it go bad and throwing it out, I decided to try making it into a beverage. All the remaining flesh went into a large bowl and I whirled it around with my hand blender. After pouring everything through wire mesh, I was left with five cups of glorious watermelon juice.

This is what I'll be doing from now on. It's that freaking brilliant. It could be used hundreds of ways--I'm thinking a future batch of watermelon margaritas--but I started with a simple cooler, mixed with a cup of orange juice and a generous squeeze of lime.

Yum--it was a perfect sipper for my Labor Day weekend.(image)



Pixley Falls, August 2009

Thu, 03 Sep 2009 11:00:00 +0000

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A short drive from our home is New York's Pixley Falls State Park.

We took a drive recently to visit. I'd been there several times as a child, but had never showed the place to my husband.

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I'd forgotten how gorgeous it really is. The day was spectacular. We visited the falls and walked along hiking trails for miles.

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It's one of those hidden gems. So if you're in the area, pack a picnic basket and go... or, do like we did. Go in the afternoon and stop for ice cream in Boonville, NY afterwards!

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You Butter My Bread, Baby

Wed, 02 Sep 2009 11:00:00 +0000

During my early-20s I had the great fortune of knowing a lovely elderly couple who, at first glance seemed to be simply existing in their twilight years. After getting to know them, however, I saw that they had achieved the dream: a peaceful, easy coexistence with someone you love and trust, who knows you better than anyone else and will be there through thick or thin.

I remember sitting at their kitchen table in Hendersonville, Pennsylvania as the lady of the house rambled around with difficulty, pulling together a snack for her husband and guests. She rebuffed all offers of help, commanding me to simply sit and be her company. It was the middle of the afternoon--too late for lunch and too early for supper, but she declared that we all needed a nibble.

She decided on cucumber sandwiches and iced tea. This kind woman--grandmother and great-grandmother to dozens by that time--set to work peeling and slicing her cucumber, deftly working that knife to achieve paper-thin slices. When she got to the bread, however, her chatter turned to more serious things.

"Some people," she said, "just slap the butter on the bread. That's not how you do it. If you really love someone you spread the butter carefully--don't tear the bread--all the way to the edges."

And spread she did. She buttered those slices of white sandwich bread slowly and with care, ensuring even coverage over the entire slice. She assembled the sandwiches one at a time, removed their crusts and cut them into triangles.

By that time she was ready for me to help, so together we piled the sandwiches on a plate, poured iced tea and carried them to the parlor. Her husband smiled, delighted when she returned, bringing his portion to him where he sat.

Now that's love.

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Recently I found myself reading about cucumber sandwiches and acquired a hankering for them, myself. With a bumper crop of cukes calling me from the crisper, I decided to introduce this special treat to Mr.W.

When I began to spread softened, unsalted butter on slices of whole wheat sandwich bread, I remembered that couple from so many years ago, now long dead. I recalled the lady's face, her kind manner, and her words, and I glanced at that ugly teddy bear cookie jar she had given me back then. I've never been able to bring myself to part with it.

So I slowed down. I buttered the bread carefully, evenly, and all the way to the edges. I carefully applied the cucumbers in a single layer, careful not to overlap them. I sliced off the crusts and cut them into triangles, just like she taught me.

Mr.W was delighted when I brought him some.(image)



Eggplant & Zucchini Curry with Rice Noodles

Tue, 01 Sep 2009 11:00:00 +0000

Where there is pressure--from too much going on, various disappointments, frustrations in life--inspiration tends to disappear.My announcement that I was taking August off from foodblogging was my way of releasing some of that life pressure. I can't do a whole lot more to try to force my body to conceive, and I can't do anything when the break line on our pickup breaks--but when the heat is on, you have to look at other ways to simplify life so that those bigger stressors don't weight quite as much.Thanks for understanding my need for a hiatus.It only took a few days after that announcement for foodie inspiration to return.First there was the friend, on her yearly visit from the U.A.E., who brought me a gift of gorgeous almond-stuffed medjool dates. Nothing could have been more perfect--and I'm saving them for just the right moment to break into them. (If only because when I do I'm certain I will snarf them in record time--it would be better to share them with friends!)Then another dear, generous friend, having found irrisistible sales at a farm stand while on a road trip, showed up with bags and bags of veggies to share. Corn on the cob, zucchini and local cucumbers were in abundance at my house--and such things just can't be ignored, can they? You have to use them up before they go to waste.You know how much I detest food waste.Finally, my own farmer's market gave me more lovely produce to round out what I already had: slender Japanese eggplants, stalks of lemongrass and tomatoes still warm from the vine. Who could resist? And what could I do but make a vegetarian curry?Now I was going to call this "Thai-Inspired," because that's what I was going for--but I discovered that my brother's Lao/Thai sister-in-law tasted my curry (I send leftovers over there when it's something I know Mr.W won't eat) and pronounced it more Indian in flavor. Perhaps it's because I used curry powder instead of a proper curry paste. Whatever the reason, it was good, and my brother--and even his sister-in-law--enjoyed it. I hope you will, too.Eggplant & Zucchini Curry with Rice Noodles serves 2 In a large saute pan or "chicken fryer" pan set over a medium flame, saute in olive oil: 2 japanese eggplant, chopped (I left the peel on)1 zucchini, chopped (again, peel on) salt and pepper When the veggies start to get soft, add: 4-inch piece of lemongrass 2 or 3 slices of ginger (straight from my freezer; I didn't bother to peel it) 2 teaspoons curry powder (I purchase this from my local asian market) 14-ounce can lite coconut milk 1/3 cup vegetable broth (made from my favorite bullion/base paste... yes, I cheated)Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Taste broth and correct seasoning as needed with more salt, curry powder and cayenne if desired. (I added 1/4 teaspoon cayenne here.) Simmer on low until veggies are very tender; add: 1 chopped tomatoabout 2-1/2 ounces dry rice noodles (you may elect to follow package directions and pre-soak the noodles, but I just tossed them in--it worked fine, and fewer steps for me) Simmer until noodles are soft. Serve hot.[...]



Taking Some Time Off

Wed, 05 Aug 2009 13:03:00 +0000

Hello, friends.

I find myself with a number of challenges lately. I've decided to take the month of August off from this food blog.

Everyone needs a break now and then, and it's that time for me. I'll be back in September; I hope the remainder of your summer is fantastic!(image)



Thanksgiving in July

Tue, 28 Jul 2009 12:01:00 +0000

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Yesterday, as I perused the market, I found myself with a package of turkey breast cutlets on markdown. "I'd have to use them today," I thought.

I considered several different recipes, including a Hawaiian chicken burger I've been meaning to make quickly came to mind. In the end, though, considering Mr.W won out--after all, he should enjoy his supper.

Mr.W particularly loves turkey breast, so I made a quick version of Thanksgiving. Hey, people have Christmas in July--why not Thanksgiving?

I tore up about 6 slices leftover bread and mixed them with salt, pepper and poultry seasoning, sauteed onion, 1/2 cup chicken broth and a beaten egg. Gently shaped into patties and sauteed in olive oil, they became lovely single-serve stuffing rounds just right for the dinner plate.

The turkey cutlets were sauteed simply with salt and pepper until golden on both sides, then a splash of chicken broth for extra juiciness. The gravy was next, of course: a simple roux with chicken broth (combined with pan juices from the turkey cutlets) and a little milk made it thick and creamy. Baked sweet potatoes (made in the microwave) rounded out the meal, along with a tiny batch of cranberry compote made earlier in the day (1/2 pound frozen cranberries combined with 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/2 cup water and about 1/4 cup sugar substitute, simmered until the berries popped open).

There's a reason why everyone loves Thanksgiving. It was delicious, and an unexpected treat for a weeknight.

Logistically, this was super-simple and super-fast to put together--and even better, there was very little cleanup (one small saucepan for the cranberries; everything else in a large frypan).(image)



Rainier Cherries for Mr.W

Thu, 23 Jul 2009 12:00:00 +0000

Yesterday was my dear husband's birthday. And do you know what he wanted above anything else?

Rainier Cherries.

These golden orbs are in season now; although they're more expensive than the more common Bing variety, I can find them at their most reasonable price now. In my humble opinion, these are the tastiest cherry ever--and Mr.W shares my opinion, which is why he chose this as his birthday gift.

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Maybe he's a foodie-in-the-making after all.(image)



Beef Tacos with Pomegranate Mojo

Wed, 22 Jul 2009 12:00:00 +0000

Tacos are a dinner staple here at Chez W. They're the perfect meal, accommodating leftovers of all shapes and sizes, customizable for picky Mr.W while suiting my taste buds, and easy portion-control of meat, beans, veggies and dairy.I'm never bored with tacos.Lately, though, I've been missing Key West. I lived there from 1995 to 2000, and loved the breezes rolling off the water, passing ocean vistas on my way to work every day and giving up my supply of cold-weather socks for sandals and light-colored clothing. The food is fantastic--especially when you become an honorary local. That's when you get clued in to the small joints, the mom-and-pop diners and bakeries that serve the best of the best. The deli that makes the best Cuban mix. Finding that a perfect loaf of Cuban bread is worth waiting in line at 6am. The shop that sells homemade ice cream in dozens of flavors. The street vendor who makes the most delicious cup of cafe con leche that leaves my mouth watering even now, almost a decade later.It makes me sigh just thinking about it, especially given the chilly and rainy weather we continue to experience here in Central New York.With thoughts of Key West dancing through my brain and staring into my refrigerator to find pomegranate juice that the folks at POM Wonderful sent, inspiration hit.Mojo. (Pronounced mo-ho.) It's that magical elixr of juice and spices that permeates Cuban roast pork and Ropa Vieja. It's the condiment on every Key West table for drizzling into salads and over beans and rice. It's actual name is mojo criollo, but most South Floridians just call it mojo.Only I made mine with pomegranate juice.A good mojo is more involved than making a simple vinaigrette--you have to cook it for perfection. I adapted this recipe to make my version.Pomegranate Mojo (Criollo)adapted from this recipe1/2 cup pomegranate juice 1/6 cup lime juice (key lime juice would be perfect here) 1/6 cup lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/2 teaspoon dried mexican oregano pinch salt several grinds black pepper1/3 cup olive oil6 cloves garlic, mincedCombine juices, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Set aside.Warm olive oil in a small saucepan set over medium-low heat. Add minced garlic and swirl; allow to sizzle until fragrant--about 30 seconds. Immediately (and carefully) add juice mixture and cover. Bring to a rolling boil, then remove from heat to cool completely.For the beef tacos, I simply cooked a beef chuck roast in the pressure cooker with a sliced vidalia onion, salt and pepper, and a mixture of water and pomegranate juice (about 1 cup of each), with a splash of my pomegranate mojo for flavor. The roast went for about 35 minutes at full pressure for tender goodness. You could use any leftover beef you like, or even ground beef, cooked chicken or tender flaked fish.The meat was cut into chunks and sprinkled liberally with pomegranate mojo for flavor. This is to taste--go lightly; you can always add more. Pile onto flour tortillas with your favorite taco fixins and enjoy.[...]



Breakfast at Hogwarts

Mon, 20 Jul 2009 13:00:00 +0000

Did you see the new Harry Potter film yet? We went this weekend and, while it did not fully portray the book (and what movie ever does), it was an enjoyable flick.

Mr.W and I are huge movie buffs as well as being big readers; there was no question that we'd see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Sure, there are lots of arguments from religious leaders why or why not these books and movies should be seen--however I try not to let those people determine what I do. I make those judgments on my own. That said, I do find them more gruesome than I feel is appropriate for someone under 13 or so. I was surprised at the number of very small children in the theater.

We enjoyed ourselves, though. One particular scene stuck in my mind today: it was the morning before the big Quidditch match, and Ron Weasley was dressed and ready, helmet and all. His breakfast was a sunny-side-up egg on toast, with toast points for dunking. You can barely make it out here in the photo below. You'll see it more clearly in the movieWatch the movie and you'll see it clearly.

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In the spirit of the movie, I thought I'd make my own version today. My egg is done over-medium, fried in a wee bit of butter. No shining yellow yolk, but delicious nonetheless.

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SPOILER WARNING for the final book - if you haven't yet read Deathly Hallows and want to, stop reading here!

I finally finished the last of the Harry Potter book series yesterday and was glad to be through it at last. I feel that, toward the end, J.K.Rowling seemed to rush it a bit. I'll offer two examples. First, there was no flourish to Hermione's destroying of the Hufflepuff cup, which I felt was necessary. And second, how on earth did Neville get the sword back from the goblins before killing Nagini? That said, I was happy to see the conclusion of the young people, set almost two decades after our favorite characters are through with school.

There's something so satisfying to finishing a book--especially when it's part of a series. I suppose that's part of why I wanted to eat a breakfast like I saw in the movie as my own little farewell. Until the final movie comes out, anyway.(image)



And Now for Something Good

Thu, 16 Jul 2009 17:02:00 +0000

Today I received a statement in the mail from Nothing But Nets. Someone recently donated $250 in my name.

The letter was unclear about whether it was a cumulative amount from multiple donations during my birthday charity drive event or a single gift--but either way, it was incredibly generous!

Whoever you are, thank you. I'm humbled, and so very pleased.(image)



A Watermelon Day

Wed, 15 Jul 2009 19:46:00 +0000

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I'm feeling rather overwhelmed lately, and very, very cranky.

Dang if it doesn't feel like autumn most days. My parents still have their furnace on at night! Today seems to be warming up nicely--Mr.W might even get some pool time in this evening. Alas, I don't dare take a dip, myself, but I'll get to that in a minute.

Meathead is driving me bonkers. I let her out, and she happily stays outside as long as I'll leave her there. Pickle is usually the one who sounds the alarm that it's time to be let in--I want to make sure they have plenty of time to do their business, you know. I always tell myself, "Self, if you leave the meat outside she'll be good inside." Clearly that's wishful thinking on my part, because she continues to do her naughty deeds in the house. My life can not be all about cleaning up after a dog! And I feel bad scolding her for it, because somehow my dear old grandmother has trained her this way (to use papers--but still, ew). Does anyone have pet-retraining tips to offer? Other than taking her to the vet for a final visit? (Yes, I've considered it.)

But it's the fertility treatments that particularly have me on edge. I've been taking lots of meds that make me over-emotional about, well, silly things, and other meds that make me nauseated. The doc's office overcharged me by $100 and have yet to rectify the problem. And I had a procedure done last week that--well, we're waiting and hoping for a desirable outcome, but won't know until next week. And if all of that weren't enough, I've come down with a cold--lots of head & chest congestion and, because of the possibility of pregnancy, I can't take any meds for it (except Tylenol, which does nothing). So I sit & suffer, sniffle & snot, and cough & pee my pants. (Sorry, but I think we've known each other long enough to be honest, haven't we?)

With all of this going on, as I was tending to some laundry today my blood sugar suddenly started to drop. That doesn't normally happen to me. And there was this lovely watermelon in the kitchen just waiting to be cut into, and I felt it would offer a most delightful solution to my predicament.

I cut into that bad boy, and wouldn't you know half of it smashed right onto my kitchen floor? A few unseemly but no less appropriate words escaped my mouth before I could stop them. And I left that horrible mess right on the floor, too. I was just too mad to clean it up. Do you ever do that?

So I ate my watermelon, ignored the explosion on the floor, coughed & sniffled some more, and told Mr.W that, by God, we're eating out tonight.(image)



Oh, the Horror!

Mon, 13 Jul 2009 13:00:00 +0000

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It happened Saturday. My house was being fumigated, and I had packed up all foodstuffs.

Except my herb plant.

We returned into the house and as my eyes landed on my lush plant, I realized the horrible mistake I'd made. All of my beautiful herbs were poisoned.

I trimmed everything to dirt level and discarded them all. Do you think the dirt is ruined, too? Should the whole thing be trashed?

I'm really beating myself up over this one. When I'd finally had success in growing a plant--a mindless moment destroys it all.

And I was so looking forward to fried sage leaves this fall.(image)



More Food Product Recalls - Possible Salmonella Contamination

Fri, 10 Jul 2009 14:33:00 +0000

I found this article by the Associated Press. I won't copy it verbatim; here are the effected products:

- Nonfat dry milk supplied by Plainview Milk Products Cooperative (many brand names) and related products using the dry milk powder.

- Anaheim peppers shipped to stores in New York, Ohio and Massachusetts.

Click over to the AP's article, complete with contact phone numbers.(image)



Taking This Week Off--July 6-10, 2009

Mon, 06 Jul 2009 14:30:00 +0000

It was a hard workin' weekend. The cleanup project was a major success--removal of layers of carpet & linoleum and new flooring installed. I used muscles I didn't know I had--at least I think I must have, because stuff is sore in places that I didn't know could hurt. I guess this body isn't made for hard physical labor.

Mr.W left this morning for a business trip this week, and I have a ton of fertility appointments this week while he's gone... so I'm taking this week off from blogging. I won't be doing any fabulous cooking. In fact, I think I'll mostly be eating on-the-go. I'm actually still eating that lovely brisket I made last week. Frozen in portions and defrosted as needed, that stuff is the bomb. My favorite way to snarf it on-the-go is in the style of the Piggy Potato--only with beef, obviously. A baked potato with butter, cheese, chopped meat tossed in a tiny bit of bbq sauce for flavor, a dollop of sour cream and voila--lunch or dinner, fast and delish.

If this past weekend was a holiday for you, I hope it was a happy one. If not, well, I hope it was a happy weekend anyway.

See you next week.(image)



Independence Day

Fri, 03 Jul 2009 11:07:00 +0000

This Saturday is Independence Day here in the United States--a celebration of our adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring our independence from England.http://www.flickr.com/photos/jcolman/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Commemorated by parades, barbecues, picnics and--most of all--fireworks, it's an opportunity to gather with loved ones to enjoy a special holiday.My favorite memory of a 4th of July was while we lived in Georgia. My husband's uncle and his family had a camp on Lake Allatoona, which is truly a gorgeous area. On that particular visit we enjoyed food and merriment, followed by an evening boat ride on the lake to watch fireworks from the water. It was a great day, followed by a beautiful fiery display in the sky.http://www.flickr.com/photos/cameraslayer/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0I love fireworks. They make me feel like a little kid, giddy to see more, more, more! That's really my only requirement for every summer--we must see fireworks at least once over the course of the summer. I don't need a fancy vacation, a trip to the beach or any such things. Just fireworks.This year we're not going to any parties, not hosting a bbq and not planning any get-together per se. You see, Mr.W and I will be helping some family members with a large housecleaning project this Saturday, which is sure to last all day long. It needs to be done, and hey, what's family for if not to help with the dirty jobs, eh? Fortunately it's scheduled to be a cool weekend.I've never been much of a housekeeper, myself. Cleaning certainly isn't something I choose to do--I see it as a necessary evil. But sometimes it also feels rather therapeutic. There have been times when I've been angry or upset, or have a problem that needs to be sorted out--and really the way I worked through it was by getting into a cleaning project. It's a great time to think, to pray, and to work out aggression.So I guess that'll be what I'm doing Saturday! Think of me as you enjoy whatever you're doing this weekend.Which brings me to my next thought... what are you doing this 4th of July? A cookout? A picnic? A boatride at the beach? And what will you be eating there?Instead of dazzling you with an array of cookout-themed recipes, today I just want to remind you that we're just in time for the very short fig season--and any cookout or picnic is the perfect time to enjoy one of those luscious little gems!I bought two perfectly ripe specimens this past Wednesday and happily gobbled them right out-of-hand. But for company, I have two yummy fig recipes for you--a fig tart and simply sliced figs topped with mascarpone cheese, hazelnuts and a drizzle of agave nectar. So decadent and so refreshing.As far as what we'll be eating, I need to come up with some easy-fix no-mess food to bring to our cleaning extravaganza so we can eat as necessary without leaving the job site or taking too much time off. I'm thinking something fruit and something one-bowl. It needs to be kept in a cooler outside. Do you have any suggestions?[...]