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August 2009 Archives

August 1, 2009

Photo Hunt: Entertainment

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This was the entertainment at our dinner party last night. An imovie I made on my laptop from our recent trip to Umbria. Actually that is only half the story. That is just an empty jewel case. There is no DVD in it yet. I DID make a movie on my laptop. Here is the sad story...

Some of you may remember when my space bar and delete key were stuck. I had to copy and paste a space between each word from another document. I brought the computer to a Mac store (We don't have a real Apple store in the desert.) They took everything off my hard drive, did tests, put it all back. I payed for a new keyboard.

It is just a few months later, and now the return key (enter) is stuck. So is the hyphen, and the plus and equals key. To skip a line I have to copy and paste a paragraph sign from WORD. Pain in the butt! Anyway, when I began the movie, my iphoto was GONE. It looked like it was in the applications folder, it was still on the dock, but didn't OPEN. Same with iDVD. Whatever they did at that place, messed everything up!

I sort of tricked imovie into thinking each photo was a "clip" (video segment). That worked. I could add sound, and effects. I finished the movie. Then you have to "render the movie" to make it a dvd. I can't!

Long story - short...I got a new laptop!

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It is VERY cool, and will work with our video camera. We are currently transfering files over. When we transfered the movie...it lost some parts. The new themes are very nice, but the old themes won't be there. It has new titles and special effects, but the old ones don't transfer, so my movie is back on the editing room floor. I don't think it will take me long to put in a few new bells and whistles, and my NEXT movies will be so much easier.

The rest of the weekend, learning all the cool new features of the new laptop will be my ENTERTAINMENT. And no keys are stuck!

August 2, 2009

Sunday Salad Samplers # 15 Tropical Rice Salad

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I first made this salad for a wedding shower I hosted in April. It started with a recipe from the internet that I played with and tweaked a bit. The shower had a tropical theme, and I wanted dishes I could not only make ahead, but easily transport to San Diego in the car. This ended up being quite a hit.

Ingredients:

2 c. chicken stock
1 c. white rice (I've never tried it with other rice, but feel free)
1 c. halved snow peas
1 c. chopped red bell pepper
3/4 c. celery
2/3 c. (or one can) sliced water chestnuts
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 can mandarin oranges, drained
1 can crushed (or chunk) pineapple, drained well

Dressing:

2 t. orange juice concentrate
2 t. honey
1 t. soy sauce
1 t. olive oil
1/2 t. sesame oil
1/2 t. lemon juice
1/2 t. minced garlic
1/4 t. minced gingerroot

Cook rice in chicken stock. Drain well. Cool rice. Put rice in a large mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients. Pour over rice mixture and toss. Chill six hours, and toss again before serving.

This salad is great with grilled fish or chicken. I thought I had a can of water chestnuts, but I had used them last time. Everything else is just like the recipes says. This time I used chunk pineapple instead of crushed. For the shower, I used passion fruit juice concentrate instead of orange. That was REALLY good.

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August 3, 2009

Ego's Thank You Dinner

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Tony was Ego's dog sitter during our last week in Italy. Ego and I decided to invite Tony for dinner, as he LOVES Italian food. Our friends Diana and Walt joined in the fun. We began with prosecco before moving to the dining room. The first course was a trio of fresh, seasonal antipasti: Tuscan melon with prosciutto, a fig with gorgonzola and honey on a grape leaf, and a mini "Caprese on a skewer".

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Our pasta course was a simple one that everyone loved: Pasta with caramelized onions, broccolini, and sausage with red pepper flakes.

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Our entree was a stuffed pork roast, cheesy-sage polenta, and baby carrots with honey and thyme.

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We had a delightful time at dinner with LOTS of food and wine, and then watched a movie of our recent Umbria trip.

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I will show you the OBSCENE 8-layer dessert tomorrow.

August 4, 2009

Chocolate and Caramel Cake

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I wanted a showstopping dessert, and was craving something "caramely". Of course, Brad's preference is always chocolate, and most of my recent baking offerings have involved fresh fruit, berries or lemons. I decided to concoct something that would please everyone. First I used this simple recipe for a yellow butter cake. I doubled it to get 8 layers, baking two at a time in 9" round cake pans with removable bottoms.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl, beating until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Beat well after each addition. Add half of the flour mixture then half of the milk. Add vanilla extract. Mix until completely blended; add remaining flour and milk and beat until smooth. Spread batter in two greased and floured 8 or 9-inch layer cake pans lined with parchment. Bake two layers at a time at 350° for 14 to 16 minutes, or until edges are golden, and cake springs back when lightly touched near center. Cool all the layers.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting

1 cup cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 T. ) unsalted butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
8 oz. of semisweet chocolate, chopped, or broken into small pieces

Place chocolate in a large bowl. Heat the cream, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring, until mixture begins to simmer (but not boil). Pour hot cream mixture over chocolate,whisking until smooth. Whisk in butter and vanilla. Cover bowl and chill for about an hour so frosting is firm, but spreadable and glossy.

Marscapone- Caramel Frosting (You may remember this from my "All About Caramel Cake")

5 c. powdered sugar
1 ½ c. butter, softened
5 T caramel sauce
4 or 5 T. marscapone

Beat powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add caramel sauce and marscapone, and beat together until smooth. Chill and allow to set up for 30 minutes in the fridge.

Assembly

Place first cake layer on serving plate. Frost with 1/4 of caramel frosting. Place next layer on top, and frost with chocolate frosting. Alternate with remaining layers, with chocolate on top. Chill. Take cake out of fridge 15 minutes before serving.

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Do you believe I didn't even TASTE it? I cut a tiny piece to try the next day, and after our guests left, I froze the rest for next week's house quests.

August 5, 2009

Herbed Stuffed Pork Roast

I had a 4.5 lb pork roast in the freezer. First step was to butterfly it into one large flat piece.

I made an herb filling in the food processor with 10 large springs of rosemary, a large handful of fresh sage leaves, 3-4 cloves of garlic, 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese, 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs. After these ingredients were chopped, I added olive oil through top of processor until the mixture felt slightly moist and stayed together. I spread a few fresh spinach leaves in the center of the pork, and spread the herb mixture on top.

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I rolled and securely tied the pork into a rolled roast using four lengths of kitchen twine.. Then I went back to the food processor with 10 more sprigs of rosemary, 4 cloves of garlic, sea salt and pepper. After finely chopping the second mixture, I rubbed the whole rolled roast with olive oil, and spread the mixture on the outside.

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Sear the roast on the BBQ (or in a pan), cover with foil, and put it into the fridge until ready to cook.

Take out roast 1 hour before cooking to get to room temp. Place on grill (across from the hot side) for 1 hour and 15 minutes with grill lid down. Check temperature with a meat thermometer. Let sit 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

August 6, 2009

Chicken Quesadilla Pie

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Here is a quick, easy dish to make with leftover grilled chicken. When we grill chicken, I always make extra for salads, etc..

Chicken Quesadilla Pie

1 10" flour tortilla
2 large cooked chicken breasts, cubed
2 green onions, chopped
1 can Ortega chilies, chopped and drained
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
salt and pepper to taste
2 large eggs
1 c. milk
1 c. flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1. Preheat over to 450. Press the tortilla into a 9" pie plate, and spray with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, toss together chicken, green onions, chilies, 1 cup of the cheese, and salt and pepper. Spread over tortilla.

3. In another bowl, whisk eggs, milk, flour, and baking powder until smooth. Pour slowly over filling in tortilla shell. Top with remaining cheese. Bake until top is golden, 20-25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

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August 7, 2009

A FABULOUS Hostess Gift

My good friend, Connie, has been visiting from Fresno this week. We've had lots of fun hanging out and talking for hours and hours and hours. She brought me the BEST hostess gift EVER...

a FLAT of fresh FIGS!

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I ate fresh figs yesterday, both green and black mission. Today I made 27 jars of jam: half fig-Amaretto, and half fig-ginger. YUM. Last night we had grilled figs stuffed with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto with our dinner. Tomorrow...FIGASMS for breakfast!

(I did something to my SD card and cannot take photos. Brad is out buying a new one. Temporary technical difficulties...)

August 8, 2009

Photo Hunt: LOW

Here is a cat laying LOW near a parked car in Italy.

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August 9, 2009

FIGASMS

We ate the LAST of the fresh figs my friend brought me from Fresno!

The idea and recipe for "figasms" came from Diana Strinati Baur of Creative Structures.

In 2006, during our first visit to Baur B&B, Diana had recognized my obsession with fresh figs off her tree. She left a bowl of figs in my room, she made tarts, appetizers, and found ways to add figs to our wonderful morning breakfasts.

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One morning Diana brought out a plate of the most wonderful figs stuffed with cheese, wrapped in prosciutto, and sauteed in butter and honey until caramelized. I thought I had died and gone to fig heaven. I described this treat as a "figasm" for obvious reasons.

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We returned to Piemonte last September, and guess what I got for breakfast?

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Saturday morning, I made Connie some figasms for breakfast.

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I had 9 black mission figs left from the flat she brought me. The last figs deserved something special!

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Unless you have had this scent permeating your kitchen, it is hard to describe. Melted butter, honey, a slight whif of gorgonzola and a hint of prosciutto around a sweet ripe fig. It caramelizes into the most beautiful sauce/pan drippings. I was a total pig.

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It was worth every calorie! I will not have another figasm until next summer.

August 10, 2009

Sisters

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Lifetime friends are such a blessing! My friend, and "sister", Connie, visited us last week. Connie and I met in August, 1970, when I was a freshman in college going through sorority rush. That was 39 years ago this month.

We have been through SO much in those 39 years. We were roommates in the sorority house until Connie graduated and got married. I was her maid of honor. I am her sons' Godmother. We've been there for each other through ups and downs, divorces, weddings, births and deaths. There has been much laughter, many tears, and occasional differences of opinions or even hurt feelings. We ALWAYS talk through it. We are just like sisters. We've lived in different cities, but usually speak on the phone once a week.

We DO have our differences. In fact, we laugh about HOW very different we are. We disagree (in a big way) on politics, religion, food, shopping, how we spend money, how we travel, even how we choose friends. So what's left, you ask?

Connie is quick, smart and funny. She is kind, generous, thoughtful and loyal. We are both talkers. She loves to be around people. She is a great storyteller. We both like to play games. We both like to eat. We have the same beliefs and philosophies of how to treat others. We can be completely honest and vulnerable with each other. We respect our differences. We laugh a LOT! We just love each other. We ARE sisters.

August 11, 2009

Fig Jam

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Fig-Amaretto Jam

4 cups fresh figs
1/3 c. lemon juice
5 3/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. Amaretto
1 pouch liquid pectin

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Fig-Ginger Jam

4 cups fresh figs
1/3 c. lemon juice
5 3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. Candied ginger pieces
1 pouch liquid pectin

The process is the same in these two recipes. Sterilize jars and lids.

Wash figs and cut off stems and any brown spots. Peeling is not necessary. Cut figs into pieces (6-8 pieces per fig) and place in a large bowl. Pour in sugar, lemon juice and flavoring component (Amaretto, ginger or liquor or spice of choice). Stir and let flavors get friendly for 15-20 minutes.

Put mixture into large pot and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Add pectin and stir one additional minute. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam. Fill jars.
Put lids and rings on jars tightly. Process for 10 minutes in large kettle of boiling water.

August 12, 2009

Linguini with Tonnato Sauce and Arugula

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This delicious pasta dish came from the August, 2009 issue of Gourmet .
I did a little tweaking of the recipe, so I'll share mine. (There's would be way too salty and runny for me)

6-8 oz of Italian tuna packed in olive oil
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
4 flat anchovy fillets
3 T. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 T. of capers
2-3 c. baby arugula
8 oz (half a pound) of linguini, cooked and drained

In a food processor, puree tuna in oil, mayo, capers, anchovies, olive oil, and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook and drain pasta. Toss with sauce and arugula. Top with grated cheese if desired. A new favorite!

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August 13, 2009

What to do with Fig Jam

So you saw all those jars of fig jam. Tough to find room for 27 jars in my pantry. Some are stashed in the guest room for gifts. One is open and in the fridge. We don't eat a lot of toast, so I needed to be creative.

Friday night we had chicken, prosciutto, fontina and fig jam panini! Oh, yes, they were delicious!

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Tuesday, I made a fig jam crostata to take to Wednesday's staff meeting.

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I'm sure I'll think of some more ways to use it!

August 14, 2009

Julie and Julia

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My book club read Julie and Julia last month. In general, we all enjoyed the book. The "f-word" was used liberally in Julie's blog. That didn't bother me when reading, except to think, "I wouldn't write that way". The rest of the group wanted to know how it was for a "food blogger" to read it. If truth be known, I was a little jealous. It seemed that Julie developed quite a following in a year, as measured by number of comments. She didn't even post photos of the recipes. I thought about how much time I spend blogging, when it is "just a recipe". I enjoyed the sections about Julia's life in Paris, and of course I zeroed in on both of the women's relationships with their husbands. The biggest turn-off in the book was Julie's housekeeping. The descriptions of cat hair, maggots, and stacks of greasy pots and pans really grossed me out. YUCK! I also thought her husband was a SAINT! She really did whine a lot!

I remember watching Julia Child on television as a child. She had quite a big presence and a distinct voice and laugh. I vaguely remember she looked like she enjoyed cooking and eating.

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I first saw the movie with Brad last weekend. We both laughed, and I cried when Julie completed her project and went to see the Julia display at the museum, leaving butter. I LOVED Stanley Tucci as Paul, and enjoyed their romance and the sweet scenes between them. I loved Julia's sister's wedding scene, Julia showing up the male chefs, and really forgot I was watching the incredible Meryl Streep. She WAS Julia! I really liked The movie's Julie character, and had so much more empathy for her than I had in the book.

I watched the movie again last night with my book club. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around, and noticed a few things that I had missed the first time. Is there anything Meryl can't do? She looked pretty good with those onions and the omelette.

What a fabulous passion for food!

After the movie, Brad told me I was the "olive oil on his bruschetta", and the "breath of his life". This Francophobe is now going to read, My Life in France.

August 15, 2009

Photo Hunt: ARTIFICIAL

I go through this by the case.

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10-20 per day for 5-10 mugs of coffee. I take 300 with me for an Italy trip. I hate Equal, and will use Splenda if I HAVE to, but it tastes just like sugar, which I also hate in my coffee. I have been using Sweet and Low for 39 years. If I was a lab rat, I'd be dead.

August 16, 2009

Sunday Salad Samplers # 17: Southern Mustard Potato Salad

Sandi chose this week's delicious potato salad. I skipped the relish, but kept the rest of the recipe the same. We loved the tang of the mustard and the addition of the hard boiled eggs. I used red potatoes.

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Sandi says:
"I know there are as many recipes for potato salad as there are kinds of potatoes. This is a recipe that is a combination of a southern potato salad and a german mustard potato salad. It is a favorite for us!"

Southern Mustard Potato Salad
1-2 pounds potatoes
4-5 hard boiled eggs
1 sweet onion, diced
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4 cup pickle relish
3 Tbs spicy mustard
1/2 cup mayo
Clean potatoes then boil them whole. Once tender, 15-20 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool. Dice onion and celery. Dice potatoes into large chunks.
In another bowl whisk together mayo, mustard and pickle relish. Add kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Stir all ingredients together. Finally, peel and slice the hard boiled eggs and stir those in as well. Serve warm or cold.

August 17, 2009

"Frenchiladas"

I rarely cook Mexican food. This idea is based on the first meal I ever cooked in my first apartment when my parents came for dinner. I had my new Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, (you know, the red checked one), and made something called "hamburger stroganoff". It was easy and tasty. I think I remembered it while watching Julie and Julia, and watching Julie learn to "not crowd the mushrooms". It seemed sort of French, given the butter and mushrooms...

1 large onion, sliced
12-15 mushrooms, sliced
2 T. butter
a splash of cream
1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained
8 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
1 pint "light" sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup (stop laughing!)
6 flour tortillas

Caramelize the onion in a little olive oil for about 15 minutes. Saute the mushrooms in the butter, and stir in a splash of cream. Mix together soup and sour cream.
Spread a little of the "sauce" in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. In each tortilla, spread a splatula full of sauce down the center. Top with a spoon of cooked meat, some of the caramelized onions, a few mushrooms, and some grated gruyere.

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Roll into an enchilada. Repeat with 5 more tortillas. Top with remaining sour cream mixture and any extra mushrooms and cheese.

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Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

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Ooey, gooey, comfort food.

August 18, 2009

Parmesan-Paprika "Biscuits"

It occurred to me this morning, that cooking really is magical. It is creative like any art form. You start out and you have nothing, except some ingredients in the pantry or fridge. You grab a few things, and stir or mix them together, sometimes cook or bake them, and magically you have a new creation. It is really amazing. You can see, smell, taste and touch the magic. Sometimes you can even hear it sizzle or pop.

A woodworker takes a piece of wood, and turns a bunch of lumber (that I would see no future in), and soon he has a chair or desk. A painter is inspired by something (nature, people, objects, colors, etc. and soon from nothing but a piece of paper or a blank canvas, there is a magical expression of their creativity. A musician takes a few notes or chords, combines them in a new way, and there is new music. Another wonder.

I wanted to cook something. I remembered a recipe I read recently in Taste Italia for parmesan-paprika biscuits (crackers).

1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. parmigiano, grated
2 t. mustard
2 t. paprika
1 stick (8 oz.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a mixer or food processor. Form into a ball of dough. Chill for 1 hour. Roll out on floured surface and cut with a biscuit cutter. I used a ravioli cutter. Bake at 400 for 7-8 minutes.

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They magically became a delicious appetizer for my book club meeting. Great with a glass of wine or prosecco.

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August 19, 2009

My Morning at the DMV

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Two weeks ago, I was awake at 1 a.m., when I suddenly sat up in bed and asked myself, "When does my driver's license expire?" I decided to go back to sleep and find out the answer in the morning.

The next morning, I looked at my driver's license (while driving in the car on the way to work...), and the answer was... it EXPIRED on my last birthday, May 12, 2009!!! I have had "Italy Brain" for months.

I know my passport is good until 2011. I didn't get a thingy in the mail. POOP! I called and made an appointment at DMV. The soonest they could take me was yesterday. I haven't driven since then, except a 4 mile round trip to the agency on Wednesdays.

Monday night I read the WHOLE 76 page Driver's Handbook, and took all the practice tests.

I arrived at 9:00 for my 9:05 appointment. I had to stand in line to tell them I had a 9:05 appointment. There were 11 people in front of me in line. I got to the front of the line at 9:10. I filled out a form, my number was called immediately. I paid $28, passed the eye exam, and was told to go have my photo and thumbprint taken. I said, "Don't I have have to take a test?" She went back to the computer and said, "No, you have a perfect driving record." Hehehe

I guess I studied for nothing. I was out the door at 9:22. I DID learn that if your windshield wipers are on, you need to turn on your headlights. Since it rains here 2-3 days a year, I hope I remember that handy tidbit.

I have gotten ONE ticket in my lifetime. It was a speeding ticket in 1970. I was 18 years old. My father grounded me and took away my Camero for two weeks. I have been very good ever since. At least I have not been caught doing anything wrong. Brad is the one in our house who has been known to drive "a wee bit fast". If I were a police officer with a quota to fill, I would just learn his schedule, or set a GPS tracking device on his car.

August 20, 2009

Book Club Movie Night

My book club came over to see my movie of our Italy trip. We began with champagne, ham-gruyere palmiers and parmesan -paprika crackers.

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Dinner was simple and easy. We had a huge green salad with lettuce, arugula, peppers, red onion, tomatoes (which I picked out of mine), croutons, and grilled chicken breasts with a pomegranate vinaigrette. We had a simple tortellini salad with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, and garlic bread.

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We tried to compile a list of all the books we've read in the past 2 1/2 years. We came up with 26 or so, and wrote them down. We watched my Umbria movie. For dessert, we had a fig jam-marscapone tart, and everyone got a jar of Fig-Amaretto jam to take home. We decided we needed a name. We became the Fig Jam Tarts!

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Next month we will discuss The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato. Whoo Hoo, we are going back to Italy!

August 21, 2009

Cheating

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I've been thinking about cheating. No, I am NOT having an affair! I mean I've been thinking about little ways people cheat.

I remember liking a boy in 4th grade. He was the smartest boy in my class. I wanted him to like me. I was a "smart" girl, and sat across from him. Once, during a math test he motioned me to show him my answers. I scooted my paper across the desk toward him, and moved my arm, pretending to be thinking, sure he could see my paper to "compare answers". I did my own work, but still felt very guilty.

I recently went to a movie with a friend (who shall remain nameless). She walked up to the ticket window and asked for "2 seniors". I am 57. She is 59. The senior rate is for 60 years or older. I immediately jerked my head around (which was absurd, as I can pass for 60) so the kid at the ticket booth couldn't see me. When we entered the theater, I told her quietly, "We're NOT seniors!" She said at the theater she usually goes to it is 55+ for the senior rate. I paid $5 for a diet coke, and tried to rationalize. I felt badly all night and the next day.

A week later, Brad and I went to the same theater to see Julie & Julia. Brad walked up to buy our tickets and said, "2 adults." He IS a senior. I told him (before he handed the guy $21) "YOU are a senior." He repeated, "2 adults." We paid $3.50 more for Brad's ticket, and I somehow felt better, like now the theater and I were "even". Then I laughed, and said, "You can pay extra if you want, but it won't change your age. You are STILL 61."

In my high school advanced algebra class, I got a test back with no grade on it. It said, "Suspected of collusion - See Me" at the top. I was horrified. I wasn't even sure what that meant, but I knew it wasn't good. After class, another girl I didn't know and I both went up to the teacher. Her paper said the same thing. The teacher said we had the same wrong answers, and he suspected us of cheating. I KNEW I was innocent. He let us take the same test after school, at opposite corners of the room. I missed the same 3 problems. The other girl missed all the problems. I was exhonorated and got my B+.

I have another friend, a therapist, who writes off every meal she has out with friends, calling it a "business expense" (supposedly marketing her private practice). If we go out, I pay her cash, she puts the meal on her credit card, and keeps the receipt. I think this is cheating. Another therapist friend does not claim the income for clients who pay her in cash. About 25% of my clients pay me in cash. I claim every single penny as income on my taxes. Am I just stupid or am I too honest? My answer is that I have to live with myself.

Many people pay to see one movie, then stay in the theater and see another movie for free. I would rather stick needles in my eye. I just couldn't do it. I give back change if given the wrong amount (too much). The cashier would have to make it up, or get into trouble if the register was short.

There are SO many ways people cheat. I think honesty is so important. We can lose a lot of things in life and still be "okay". Integrity is not one of them.

August 22, 2009

Photo Hunt: Ripples

This week's theme of "ripples" was easy, as I immediately thought (longingly) of our days in Varenna last September. Here are some Lake Como ripples:

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August 23, 2009

Sunday Salad Samplers # 18: Tortellini Salad

Here is this week's wonderful recipe from Ida for Tortellini Salad:

1 lb or a little bit more Fresh or frozen tortellini or a Barilla bag of dry tortellini
Boil as per package instructions and set aside.Don't overboil them! COOL them down a bit. (I used fresh tricolored).

In a very very large bowl mix together:

1 container of pearl or small sized fresh mozzarella balls

16 oz jar of Julienne cut Calif sundried tomatoes in oil ( I use 3/4 of the jar)plus the oil! Just pour the oil into the bowl.

4 cloves garlic chopped superfine
1 large bunch Italian parsley chopped fine
1 jar black dried olives in oil pitted and sliced ( this takes a while)
16 oz jar (or larger from costco) Marinated Artichokes cut into pieces ( i think mine was 24oz)
1 jar marinated red peppers cut in strips if you want ( I stopped adding them)
S/P and some extra virgin olive oil

Now that you've mixed the above ingredients well Add cooked tortellini a few scoops at a time mixing well. Cover bowl with glad wrap and refrigerate overnite as it taste even better the following day after the flavors blend together. Serve at room temp! I served mine with grilled shrimp.

My version is quite simple: tortellini, fresh grape tomatoes, garlic, mozzarella balls, lots of fresh basil, tossed with olive oil, salt and pepper and some red chili flakes:

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August 24, 2009

Dinner with Nancy and Bill

We enjoyed a lovely evening with Nancy and Bill on Saturday. After a drink and snack at our house, we went to the Tea House Wine Bar for a dinner of appetizers. They have great "small plates" (not so small).

Bill began with the house special mushroom soup:

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Nancy had the huge, delicious coconut shrimp.

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Brad and I shared "lamb lollipops":

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Then Brad had "Chinese lanterns" (peppers stuffed with shrimp), and I had my favorite Orange Shrimp (most are in my fridge for another meal).

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Nancy and Bill had beautiful salads, and some of the lamb lollipops.

We talked all about our Umbria adventure, and Nancy and Bill's upcoming trip to Lake Como, Torino and Acqui Terme. I want to sneak into their luggage!

Then I enjoyed a brilliantly strong cup of coffee while the chocoholics devoured this
"Chocolate Overload Torte".

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What a fun and tasty evening! Buon Viaggio, Nancy and Bill!

August 25, 2009

Caramel-Braised Pork

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I usually try 1-2 new recipes a week. Some I find in magazines, others in my many cookbooks, some on the internet, or blogs. Sometimes I just make them up. This one came from Williams-Sonoma. Brad gets emails from them, saw this and thought we might enjoy it.

"The signature style of chef Pichet Ong of Batch in New York City is "blurring the line between savory and sweet to create a unique mix of flavors, textures and temperatures." Here, he braises hearty pork shoulder roast and fresh pineapple in a savory-sweet sauce seasoned with plenty of black pepper."

I only made three tiny changes. I used baby carrots instead of a sweet potato. I didn't have sake, so I used sherry, and I served it over polenta, not rice. It was delicious. The only thing I would do differently next time, is reduce the black pepper a little. It was VERY peppery!

Ingredients:
2 lb. boneless pork shoulder roast, cut into 2 1/2- to 3-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. water
2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. soy sauce
2 Tbs. plus 2 tsp. fish sauce
1 cup diced pineapple (1/4-inch cubes), plus residual juices
1/4 cup sake
1 Tbs. coarsely ground pepper
2 pieces fresh ginger, each 1 inch thick, peeled
1 sweet potato, about 9 1/2 oz., peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 green onions, white portion only, with root end attached
1 green onion, white and green portions, julienned
Steamed white rice for serving

Directions:
Season the pork with salt and pepper. In the stovetop-safe insert of a slow cooker or in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the oil. Working in batches, add the pork and brown on all sides, 7 to 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the sugar, lemon juice and water to the insert or fry pan and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, until the mixture is a dark caramel color but not burned, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, pineapple and juices, sake, coarsely ground pepper, ginger, sweet potato and green onion roots. Carefully add the soy sauce mixture to the caramel and return the mixture to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the pork.

Transfer the insert to the slow-cooker base. If using a regular slow cooker, transfer the pork and sauce to the cooker. Cover and cook on high according to the manufacturer?s instructions until the pork is tender, about 2 1/2 hours. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pork to a warmed platter. If using a slow-cooker insert, set the insert over medium-high heat, bring the sauce to a boil and cook until thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. If using a regular slow cooker, transfer the sauce to a saucepan and boil the sauce as directed. Remove the ginger pieces and discard.

Spoon the sauce over the pork and garnish with the julienned green onion. Grind additional pepper on top and serve immediately with steamed white rice. Serves 4.

Adapted from a recipe by Pichet Ong, Chef, Batch, New York City, NY.

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August 26, 2009

Parmesan-Tomato Tart

When Nancy and Bill came over the other day, they brought us two beautiful gifts from the garden: GORGEOUS heirloom tomatoes for Brad, and FIGS for me! The tomatoes were ripe and ready to eat, so I had to think fast!

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I found this wonderful recipe at 101 Cookbooks blog for a Parmesan Crust! I had all of the ingredients, and fresh basil in the garden.

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I did use all regular flour (no whole wheat), but followed the rest of the recipe. Heidi explains how to prepare the tomatoes with sea salt, and get all the moisture out with paper towels, so you don't end up with a soggy mess. It is beautiful with some slivered basil and a drizzle of your BEST olive oil!

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Brad had his for dinner with a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup. He took a bite, and said, "Oh my GOD!" when the cheesy crust melted in his mouth.

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I had enough dough for one square, and one smaller tart shell. Another friend was here and saw the empty shells after they were baked. She immediately said, "You need to SELL these! Put my order in for one next week!"

I'd LOVE your ideas on other fillings!

August 27, 2009

Baked Fennel with Gorgonzola

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For two:

Rinse and dry one fennel bulb. Cut it in half, then half again from top to bottom. Save some of the tender fern-like leaves. In a small pan, add fennel to 1 1/2 cup chicken broth. On high heat, cover, and cook 15 minutes until fennel is fork- tender. Place fennel in small baking dish or oven-proof gratin plate. Reduce remaining broth to 1/3 cup. Pour over fennel. Sprinkle with fennel leaves, 2 oz. crumbled gorgonzola and 1 T. bread crumbs. Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until cheese melts.

We had ours with a lamb kebob and smashed red potatoes. We always eat well on Wednesday nights in honor of Top Chef!

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August 28, 2009

August Books

This month, I have been busy, but managed to find time to read four books, three of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Being active in two book clubs keeps me reading too.

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The first was The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. You've all heard the premise or at least seen trailers for the movie. The book is based on a fascinating concept of traveling in time, and meeting one's future spouse when you are an adult, and she is a child. When their paths cross as two adults, she knows him, but he "hasn't met her yet" in his present. I agree with most reviews that the idea is better than the way the author builds a relationship between the main characters. Their courtship and marriage seems to be based a lot on constant sex, but I may be jaded, as most of the client couples I see fall into the opposite category, of very infrequent sex. They are too busy fighting. I didn't feel the book's characters were happy in their relationship, and the 6 miscarriages through the middle of the book were hard for me to read. I have no desire to see the movie.

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DELIGHTFUL! Now THIS was a happy marriage. I loved reading about Julia Child's life, marriage, travels, struggles writing her classic cookbook, and gusto for food! It ALMOST makes me want to go to Paris.

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I really enjoyed this chick lit book. It got me out of France and back to Italy, and was a combination of a mystery, romance and historical fiction. The story is about a modern day glass artist, who after a divorce, returns to Venice to work on Murano, and learn the truth of her ancestor who was the greatest glass artist in the 17th century. The heroine learns of old jealousies and treason. She must find out what really happened. This book flips back and forth from the past to the present, and the author does a wonderful job of smoothing those transitions perfectly. Every once in a while I also like a happy ending (even if it was predictible).

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Right now I'm in the middle of this newest Donna Leon mystery. I guess, I can't quite leave Venice. I love Commissario Guido Brunetti and his family. This book deals with illegal transporting of garbage, environmental issues, corruption, and of course, murder.

This is also the first book I have read on my iPhone Kindle. I was afraid it would eat up my battery, especially because I usually charge my phone at bedtime, and that is also when I like to read. It is not at all a problem. It is great for travel too. Brad read this on my iPhone while we were in Italy.

Next month I look forward to reading: (along with my book clubs'choices)

The 8th Confession by James Patterson
Finger Licken' Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

August 29, 2009

Photo Hunt: SURPRISE

My most recent nice surprise was while in Orvieto for the day. Brad brought me one big beautiful sunflower. It's the little things...

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August 30, 2009

Duck with Figs

I bought a duck! I've never actually cooked a duck before. I watched and assisted a little with Judith, when she fixed us dinner during our Palmabella's Italy tour. I had the butcher cut it up for me, so the parts would be recognizable. I rubbed the legs, thighs and breasts with some softened unsalted butter, then seasoned them with a mixture of sea salt, garlic, and rosemary. Then I drizzled each piece with some good Italian honey and roasted them at 450 for 40 minutes. I removed the duck pieces to a platter, then poured the drippings into a saucepan. After skimming off the fat, I reduced the liquid to about half and poured the dark caramelly "sauce" over the crispy duck pieces.

During the last 40 minutes, in a separate buttered baking dish, I cooked figs (from Nancy and Bill) that were cut in half, dotted with butter and drizzled with honey. The combination was wonderful! We have enough leftovers for another meal.

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August 31, 2009

Patience

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I was thinking about my patience, and at times lack of it.

I have absolutely NO patience with:

Tangled Christmas lights

Electronics that don't work

Knots that won't come undone

Packages that wont open

Paperwork

I have TONS of patience with:

Baking/cooking/decorating/craft projects

Friends (and people in general)

Clients trying to change

Painting

Driving

Waiting to go on vacation

This page contains all entries posted to Palmabella's Passions in August 2009. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2009 is the previous archive.

September 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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