“Well Begun is Half Done.”

While most of us undoubtedly know this quote from the movie, Mary Poppins, from what I’ve read it was quoted by Aristotle in his philosophical work, Politics, as a proverb during his time.  Can you say WOW?!  That makes it a true oldie but goodie!!  😊 

Have you ever thought about this phrase?  Contemplated its meaning?  I get it, it’s not exactly, “What is the meaning of life,” right?  😉  But there’s actually a lot of truth in the saying.  I view it as being similar to the Boy Scouts’ motto, “Be prepared.”  If I determine in advance what needs to be done and, before my feet hit the floor in the morning, make up my mind to carve out time to make those things happen, there will be more likelihood of my accomplishing more of what I would like to get finished.  That said, now that I’m (ahem) older, I rely heavily on lists and schedules to preplan and prepare. 

Just as easy examples, each year for Christmas my niece sends us a family calendar.  I absolutely love this gift every year for lots of reasons.  First and foremost, it always contains wonderful photographs of her family that I can see every day.  The other thing I do as soon as I sit down after opening the gift is mark the calendar.  I mark all birthdays; I mark the days our mortgage payment comes out of our account every two weeks (that way I never forget, in my monthly budgeting, bill paying, and bookkeeping to take that amount out of my books; I mark the days any monies are due in; I mark the first Monday of the month to sit down and pay all our accounts (we make certain to pay our savings first), and pay all our bills for the month.  The last thing I do before I go to bed is set up the coffee pot so I can just push the button first thing in the morning so that the coffee is brewed and ready to go by the time I finish unloading the dishwasher and putting away the dishes.  Then I sit down at my desk and, with coffee in hand, spend the next hour or so enjoying my Bible reading, devotional and prayer time.  It’s been a wonderful, positive, and uplifting way to start every day!  This preplanning and preparedness have also served us well when it comes to interruptions and emergencies.

It’s been a tough week and a half or so and, sadly, I haven’t been able to post.  Because I got laid up after an iron infusion, my menu plan got reused for a portion of the following week.  Other than that, we ate quickie meals that I had stashed in the freezer for times such as these, and we actually ordered in a couple nights when I just couldn’t stay upright long enough to cook or even reheat.  All my preplanning definitely helped us out while I was under the weather.  Thankfully, however, I’m back on my feet, energized, and ready to rock.  😊 

By the time hubby comes downstairs this morning, the menu plan will have been completed (usually this is a Saturday morning thing but, yesterday, we both had projects we needed to get finished up and we shifted the menu planning and shopping to this morning), the shopping list for the few items we need from our local grocery will be ready to go, I’ll have written this post, and I’ll be able to sit and relax over a second cup of coffee with my sweetheart.  Once he heads out the door, I’ll have time to schedule this post, get tonight’s dessert in the oven, and prep the potatoes and Brussels sprouts for tonight’s family dinner.  And then, well, it will be time for church.  We attend on-line for now due to COVID-19 and try to wait patiently for the day that we’ll be able to return to in-person attendance.  We definitely miss seeing our church family. 

On to this week’s menu plan and a recipe for my newest favorite spice blend – Ras el Hanout.  I make it in a large batch whenever I’m running low, and store it in a jar with a tight-fitting lid.  We truly enjoy this blend of flavors on lots of different things but we LOVE it on chicken wings!  I never enjoyed eating wings because they were usually far too spicy for me.  This spice blend has just a bit of zip, and even I can appreciate some zippiness from time to time.

RAS EL HANOUT

In a glass jar, with a good, tight lid place all of the ingredients.  I use a pint jar which gives me plenty of room to shake the ingredients until they’re thoroughly mixed.

  • 6 teaspoons sea salt (I use Celtic sea salt)
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper (I use a rainbow pepper blend)
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon saffron (optional – this is a pricy ingredient and I frequently leave it out)

Place the lid on the jar and shake until the contents are well mixed.  Store in a dark place and use within six months so that it doesn’t lose its potency.

SEASONED CHICKEN WINGS

  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons Ras el Hanout seasoning blend
  • Gallon storage bag

Place the chicken wings into the plastic storage bag.  Sprinkle the seasoning blend over the chicken wings in the bag and drizzle the olive oil over all.  Seal the bag and smoosh (serious culinary term there) the contents around until all the wings are well coated.  I usually do this about 90 minutes before cooking the wings, and then turn and massage the bag every 20 minutes or so until I’m ready to pop them in the oven. 

Preheat your oven to 450ºF.  My sheet pan will hold three pounds of chicken wings.  Depending on the size of your wings and/or sheet pan, you may need two pans.  Line your pan(s) with parchment paper and place your wings on the pan leaving space so that they’ll get crispy rather than just steam.  Seriously … crispy chicken skin; am I right?!  Place your chicken in the oven and bake at 450ºF. for approximately 40 minutes, or until the chicken wings are done (at least 165ºF. internal temperature) and the skin is getting crispy.  I then turn my oven heat up to 500ºF. and let them go for another 10-12 minutes just to up the crispiness factor.  Remember when taking them out of the oven that there is some oil on the pan and it will likely be popping a bit.  DO NOT get too close to that pan.  You could also let them go longer at 450ºF. until the skin is crispy enough for your taste.  Please be certain to use a metal baking sheet as you’re dealing with high oven temperatures.

Ras el Hanout wings, caramelized zucchini and Basmati rice w/lemon & ground sumac

On to this week’s menu plan:

SATURDAYRAS EL HANOUT WINGS, CARAMELIZED ZUCCHINI AND BASMATI RICE W/LEMON & SUMAC
SUNDAYBAKED HAM, POTATOES AU GRATIN, ROASTED BRUSSELS SPROUTS & PERFECT PEAR CAKE
MONDAYBUTTERNUT-APPLE SOUP, GREEN SALAD & HOMEMADE BISCUITS
TUESDAYSEARED HALIBUT TACOS W/SLAW & AVOCADO CREMA ON HOMEMADE SOFT WRAPS
WEDNESDAYBLACK BEAN BURGERS W/ROASTED OVEN POTATOES
THURSDAYLEMON-GARLIC MAHI MAHI AND SPAGHETTI SQUASH W/ROASTED TOMATOES & MOZARELLA
FRIDAYNO-COOK FRIDAY 😊

Have a wonderful, blessed week and remember:  preplan and be prepared!    

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  1 Corinthians 2:9

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“Anchors Aweigh” – Scallop Casserole

“’Close your eyes,’ he had said to her. ‘Food demands complete submission.’  And then he placed a perfect scallop in her mouth.  ‘Do you taste the sea?’
“Delphine did.  Not just the salt of the sea but the very air of the moment that the shell was pulled from the sand.  ‘A storm, perhaps. There is a dark edge to the sweetness of the meat.’”

― N.M. Kelby, White Truffles in Winter (A wonderful read, too!)

Yes, yes, I know it’s “Taco Tuesday,” but it’s scallop season here in Maine, and when you suddenly get your hands on 2 pounds of fresh, just-off-the-boat scallops, well … even the jarabe must yield to a sailor’s hornpipe.  It’s time for our favorite scallop casserole; it’s easy and relatively quick to fix and there’s the bonus of extra scallops (shhh … leftovers) for scallop sandwiches tomorrow tucked into some homemade seeded rolls and topped with fresh avocado slices (since we will not be using them tonight for the salsa) and some spicy mayo.  😊 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds scallops
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 stacks (since they’re now smaller) of Ritz crackers, crushed
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 325º F, and make sure your rack is in the middle position. 

Wash and clean the scallops and pat them dry. 

Spread the scallops evenly in a 9×13 baking pan.

In a bowl mix together the chopped onion, crushed crackers, Parmesan, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon zest.  Distribute this mixture evenly over the scallops. 

Stir the lemon juice into the melted butter and pour it evenly over the crumb topping in your baking pan. 

Place your baking pan in the oven and allow it to cook for 30 minutes or until the scallops are done. 

If you prefer a darker, crunchier topping, you can place the pan (do NOT do this with a glass baking dish) under the broiler for an additional minute or two. 

We love this dish even more than seared scallops, and serve it with plenty of roasted Brussels sprouts.

“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.” Psalm 107:23-24

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The Magical Menu Plan

Once upon a time I didn’t plan meals.  We went to the supermarket, usually together, and we picked up entrée items that we thought we’d enjoy or that we hadn’t had in a while, and then we’d throw in some carbs (gimme the noodles!) and produce to round out what we viewed as a reasonably healthful selection of foods for the week.  Since we both worked, initially outside the home, and hubby was not a breakfast person, we’d pick up deli lunchmeat for lunches on the weekend and call it a successful shopping trip.  The biggest problem we encountered was waste.  We were, back then, a family of two with one person who really did not enjoy eating leftovers because, as you know, leftovers are, in fact, left over.  They’re reheated versions of a prior meal that you finished eating only 24 hours before.  But, we bought for six entrées and, other than on weekends, we didn’t eat lunch at home.  Leftovers usually got tossed.  I would hate to have tracked the cost of all that discarded food over all those years.  YIKES! 

I’ve lost count of all the ways I’ve tried to feed us reasonably-portioned, healthy meals while reducing waste.  It’s not easy but, for us, the least wasteful way to get this done is by planning the meals and, now that we’re both home most of the time, I need to reconfigure what is left from a meal for two into something that doesn’t look anything like its original form so as to avoid leftovers.  😉 

So, early on Saturday morning, I dig through my freezer to get an idea of what’s left in there, my produce, and my pantry, and then sit down at my desk in front of my computer with the two cookbooks I use most and my internet links and make a plan.  It’s also MUCH easier for me to plan when I shop every month or two for my entrée items.  I do this shopping on line for many reasons:  (1)  my hubby and I are in our 60s and suffer with knee difficulties, making supermarket forays and waiting in line difficult (and, if I’m honest, truly annoying; I’ve never been good at waiting, ever); (2) the supermarket here is, other than our co-op the only grocery game in town – it’s seriously overpriced on most items and, frankly, if I’m going to pay outrageous prices for food, I can get it delivered, get better quality, and pay the same and frequently less; and (3) while I love our co-op because it supports local farmers, I’m finding that I’m paying roughly the same whether I shop at the co-op, the overpriced supermarket or on-line and, again, I don’t have to stand on my feet while waiting in line.  Since I can’t find delivery on good dairy items, I plan on going back to our local co-op for dairy items because, honestly, you really can’t beat fresh chicken and duck eggs and fresh raw milk.  😊 

Yes, shopping has changed a lot, especially in this last year.  I buy most of my seafood (except of course, our local lobster, crab, and scallops) through Vital Choice Seafood.  Their selection is fabulous and the quality simply can’t be beat.  Not only that but, on occasions when errors have been made in my orders they have gone above and beyond to make sure that I’m always truly delighted with their service.  All my other meats (beef, pork, lamb, poultry) is purchased through Purdue Farms.  Again, it’s about quality and service and, in this instance, the availability of a large selection of quality meats.  I order my produce bi-weekly from Misfits and, thus far, that has worked out well.  I just need to make certain that I use up the more fragile, quick-to-spoil produce at the beginning of the two-week period.  I order their bigger box option for two weeks since even their small box is too big for hubby and I for one week.  The large box for two weeks works out really well since you can now customize your box.  We can order non-perishables and paper goods on line as well.  This all has reduced our need to go to the local supermarket tremendously and has eliminated much of our waste as well. 

SATURDAYGREEK ISLAND-STYLE SPINACH-STUFFED CALAMARI WITH RICE & APPLE-PEAR CAKE
SUNDAYBIRTHDAY DINNER AT THE KIDS’ HOUSE FOR OUR OLDEST GRANDSON – 14!!  😊
MONDAYBASMATI RICE WITH MUSHROOMS, WALNUTS & KALE IN PUMPKIN SAUCE
TUESDAYSHRIMP TACOS WITH AVOCADO-MANGO SALSA & LIME CREMA IN HOMEMADE SOFT WRAPS
WEDNESDAYCHICKEN BREASTS IN ROASTED RED PEPPER SAUCE WITH SPINACH AND HOMEMADE GNOCCHI
THURSDAYSHAKSHUKA WITH A GREEN SALAD
FRIDAYNO-COOK FRIDAY 😊

Usually, Sunday nights are our special meal of the week.  This week, however, with a birthday to celebrate tonight next door, we made Saturday night our special meal.  I got the recipe out of one of my most-used cookbooks, The Ultimate Mediterranean Diet Cookbook, by Amy Riolo.  We had Greek Island-Style Stuffed Calamari with Rice and Herbs.  It was positively delicious and relatively quick to make once I got the hang of stuffing the squid bodies.  I simply sautéed up the tentacles while the stuffed squid was cooking.  Should you desire the recipe, it’s here on YouTube:

So delicious!

And, for dessert, there was a moist and delectable apple-pear cake.  This recipe indicates a Bundt pan or 9×13; however, since I could get a “two-fer,” I baked it in two 9” cake pans and wrapped one for the freezer.  😊  Like the 9×13 variation in the recipe, it did take 50 minutes to bake.  It also used up the last of my apples and pears – bonus!  You’ll find the recipe for the cake here:  https://www.seattletimes.com/life/food-drink/this-apple-and-pear-cake-recipe-was-a-family-mystery-until-i-cracked-its-delicious-code/.  Since I’m not a great fan of vegetable oil in my cakes, I will likely try to come up with a version using butter. 

By way of full disclosure, I do not have a large or stand-alone freezer.  What I purchase must fit in my refrigerator freezer and it does get tight.  😊  In addition, We conscientiously budget for what we spend monthly on food (actually, we budget for everything so we never have to have anything on credit). I’m particularly interested in items that are on special from the on-line vendors I use. I do not use affiliate links here since I feel strongly about such things.  If you have an interest in something specific, please just drop me an e-mail and I will be happy to provide you with additional information.

“I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.” Psalm 40:1

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Ah! The Pastabilities: Cavorting with Carbs!

“The lack of carbohydrates can make you a little crazy.”    Tom Hardy

I wholeheartedly concur, Mr. Hardy!  In my head, in my heart, in my belly, and most definitely on my tongue there is nothing more satisfying and comforting than a carbohydrate.  Bread, rice, potato, and especially pasta; all so incredibly satisfying.  In fact, my go-to comfort food is hot, heavily buttered wide egg noodles!  I always have a bag (or two or three) of “Pennsylvania Dutch Hearty Homestyle” egg noodles in the pantry in case of emergency.  😉  “I never met a [carb] I didn’t like.”  😊 

While an abundance of carbs isn’t the best thing in the world for me, and I actually do watch my carb intake, they are definitely alluring — my siren song.  Making homemade pasta isn’t hard. Depending on your tools, or lack thereof, it can definitely be time consuming.  I could never really hand roll my pasta thin enough, and so I invested $10 in a secondhand pasta machine.  It makes the pasta sheets wonderfully thin, and then we hand cut the type of pasta we want to eat or, depending on just how much dough we made, different types of pasta.  There are also various attachments for pasta machines to give you different widths.  When it comes to pasta/noodles my feeling is the wider, the better.  Homemade tagliatelle is my favorite pasta.  And, if you make too much (is that even pastable?!), you can freeze it up to a couple months against a pasta emergency. 

I use the same recipe for all different types of pasta and truly have no recollection where the recipe came from since I’ve been using it for more than 20 years and long ago committed it to memory.  Let’s make some pasta!!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons of water
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • In a large bowl, mound your flour and then create a depression or well in the center.  Into that depression/well add your eggs, yolk, salt, olive oil and water. 
  • Using a fork, beat the eggs and start incorporating the flour from the inner portion of your flour depression/well while being sure to keep the outer portion of the mound intact with your other hand.
  • Once there is no more liquid remaining in the center, start using your hands to knead the dough.  Realize that you won’t use all the flour.  Just work/knead the dough until it comes together and isn’t sticky any longer.  If your dough actually does use all the flour and remains sticky, you can add more flour just a little bit at a time until the dough is no longer sticky.  Continue kneading the dough for about 10 minutes; this will result in a nice, light dough. 
  • Once your dough is smooth, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes. 
    • NOTE:  I use my stand mixer and the dough hook instead of a fork and my hands.

If you’re using a pasta machine, cut your dough into quarters.  Make sure to wrap any dough you’re not working with in plastic wrap so it doesn’t dry out.  Shape that piece of dough with your hands into a rectangle.

With your pasta machine set to its widest setting, run the dough through the pasta machine.  Fold your dough into thirds (like you’re folding a letter to mail) and run it through again.  Repeat this 1 more time. 

Turn the machine to the next smaller setting and, folding your dough if necessary, pass it through the machine.  Repeat this process by passing the dough through the machine on successively smaller settings until you’ve reached the smallest, thinnest setting. 

Once you’ve passed the dough through the thinnest setting on your machine, loosely roll the dough (it will be more of a flat roll), keeping the sides as even as possible, and carefully cut the dough using a sharp knife.  I cut one-half inch strips for my tagliatelle, but you can cut your pasta dough into any width you like.  Once the dough is cut, I gently unroll it and toss it gently on a lightly floured sheet pan to keep it from sticking.  Repeat the process with each of your dough quarters. 

If you’re making your pasta entirely by hand, you want to roll the dough out with your pin to your desired thickness.  I like mine to be thin enough to be almost translucent and sturdy enough that it doesn’t tear when lifted with my hands.  It is definitely harder to achieve with a rolling pin. You can then roll the dough and cut it into your desired width. 

On a trip to Little Italy, in the Bronx with my hubby, we visited an amazing pasta company just off Arthur Avenue.  The name of the company has long since been forgotten, but what I do remember is that all their fresh pasta was tossed in cornmeal to keep it from sticking. We always took a big cooler with us when we went to Little Italy!!

Hers and His: Tagliatelle in Pesto-Cream Sauce

Fresh pasta is truly a delight, and cooks up much more quickly than dried pasta; taking only 3-4 minutes.

“And the people took their dough before it was leavened, their kneadingtroughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders.” Exodus 12:34

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Finding My Rhythm in Retirement

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible!”    Audrey Hepburn

It’s not that I never thought about retirement, or talked about it, or wondered what it would be like.  How would you answer the question, “When I retire, I’m going to …?” 

I’ve answered that question aloud and in my head hundreds of times over the years with answers such as:  play with my grandkids; design and make my own clothes; design counted cross-stitch; play with my grandkids; nap whenever I want; do all the things I’ve never had time to do; finish all the projects that are waiting for more time in my schedule; play with my grandkids; travel; raise chickens; raise goats; raise sheep; own a dairy cow; and, oh yeah, play with my grandkids!  😉    

Even though I thought about it, discussed it, and joked about it with family and friends, it was always a distant, faint and fuzzy something that would exist somewhere down the road.  Then, after a couple of sudden and unexpected major health crises in this, the craziest of all years, it was on my doorstep.  SURPRISE!  You’re retired!  Initially all I could think was, you know, this IS NOT in my plans; I’m not ready!

After a health crisis, you need to spend a bit of time getting things back on track:  seeing your PCP; seeing specialists; getting recommended diagnostic and follow-up testing; and working to recover your health. These things, and more, become a huge part of every single day.  It fills up your mind, your conversations, and your schedule; it becomes your life.  Eventually, however, appointments become less frequent and you begin to feel as though you’re getting a handle on how to maintain your health going forward. 

I am now eight months out from a small right-sided occipitoparietal infarct that caused a vision loss sufficient to eliminate my ability to drive, and a cardiac arrest.  Both of these were caused by having a hemoglobin of 6 and almost no iron.  I was losing blood and, had I been paying attention instead of adopting my usual hatred of the medical profession and an it’ll be a pig’s foot by morning attitude, I would have noticed that I was bleeding internally.  NEVER ignore your symptoms.  Long story short, I was taking far too much aspirin due to severe end-stage osteoarthritis of both knees, that caused seven bleeding ulcers. 

When I was finally discharged from hospital, I was advised that I also had diabetes.  Life has, indeed, been unbelievably exciting this year, and I’m delighted the year is almost over.  I’m thankful for many, many things:  a loving, supportive husband of 42 years, incredible family (immediate, extended, loved-in, and church) and, last but not least, having the ability to work hard to get back on my feet by getting off oxygen, ambulating without a walker, and cooking and eating a healthy diet that has worked to bring both my daily blood glucose measurements and A1c down to normal and reduce the inflammation in my knees to the point where I no longer require anything for pain.  I’m finally at a point where I can truly focus on being retired.  😊 

Still Standing

While I’m not yet fully in the groove, there is a recognizable though perhaps still a bit faltering rhythm now, the most important component of which, for me, is starting and ending each day with my Bible, prayer and contemplation.  I spend time each day looking for ways to be a blessing to others.  I have, indeed, started designing counted cross-stitch pieces, I’m learning to tat, relearning how to do handmade buttonholes (I’ve been using a machine so long that my 7th grade sewing class instructions have faded away) reading, cooking, baking, and spending time with my sweet hubby over wonderful meals and watching as many laugh-out-loud movies as we can find.  He’s trying to decide if it’s now time for his second retirement.  He’s been working part-time since we moved to Maine, having retired from his government job of 28 years right before the move.  The pandemic has made his part-time position more difficult and would increase his chances of exposure.  We’re working together to figure out what our non-working, fixed income budget would look like, and I’m working really hard to lure him into full retirement with me. 

We have a date night every week:  a candlelit dinner for two, followed by a board game, a movie, or just slow dancing together to music on the stereo.  I’m delighted that I’m finding the rhythm to this interesting and very different stage of life. Remember: anger, resentment, happiness, joy, and other emotions are choices. Choose joy, always.

Wishing you a healthy and joy-filled 2021!

Be blessed “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”   Ephesians 4:32

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A Panade Adds Panache

Meatballs?  Meatloaf?  Stuffed peppers?  Adding a panade to your ground/minced meat will give it a little panache and lighten rather than tighten the mixture.  A panade is, quite simply, a mixture of starch and liquid.  It seems one of the most common panades is bread – slices, pieces, crumbs – and milk.  I use panko and yogurt. 

Today I’m making a ground meat mixture for stuffed peppers; anything not used for stuffing the peppers will be turned into meatballs, baked off and put in the freezer for another meal down the road.  There’s nothing better than a “two-fer” when you’re cooking!  😊  This is my go-to recipe for any needed meat mixtures, except my meatloaf and Swedish meatballs. 

Did anyone else help mom in the kitchen by breaking bread slices up into little bits for meatloaf and/or meatballs?  I now wonder if that was my mom’s panade.  There was never milk involved and, if you didn’t break the bread up into small enough pieces, you could easily end up with little white dots (I used to refer to them as eyeballs) peering out at you from your slice of meatloaf. 

On to the recipe! 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 medium green sweet peppers, with tops and seed core removed.
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (I use my garlic press)
  • 1.5 cups panko crumbs
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup onion, finely minced (I pulse it in my food processor a few times)
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt (I use Celtic sea salt)
  • 1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Once the water is at a rolling boil, place your sweet peppers gently (no hot splashes, please) into the water.  I use my tongs for this. 
  • Allow the peppers to par boil for 3-4 minutes, and then gently remove them with tongs or a slotted spoon, and place open side down on clean toweling to drain while preparing your meat mixture.
  • Make panade:  In a bowl, mix together the panko and yogurt until combined.  Set this aside for 10-15 minutes while you make up your meat mixture.
  • Preheat your oven to 425º F, and prepare your baking dish.  For the peppers I use my 8×8 square Pyrex dish coated with about a tablespoon of olive oil.  For the meatballs made from the leftover meat mixture, I line a small sheet pan with parchment paper. 
  • In a large bowl mix together the meats, garlic, eggs, cheese, onion, fresh and dried herbs, Worcestershire, salt, and black and cayenne pepper.  Using your hands, begin to mix these together.  After working all the ingredients for a minute or so, add in the panade, and continue to mix until everything is evenly mixed together and there are no visible pockets of concentrated ingredients.
  • At this point your peppers should be cool enough to handle.  Pack each pepper lightly with your meat mixture and place them in a baking dish.  If the peppers won’t sit upright easily, I crumple up pieces of foil and place them so they keep the peppers upright.  I don’t like sauce on my sweet peppers, preferring to place a slice of cheese – usually fresh mozzarella – atop each pepper about 10 minutes before they are done.  Since I have no fresh mozzarella today, I’ll be using slices of muenster cheese instead.  You can, of course, top your peppers as you like, whether with cheese, ketchup or a tomato or other sauce. 
  • If you have any meat left after making the peppers, you can make them into meatballs and bake them off as well.  I use a medium cookie scoop to measure the amount of meat in my meatballs but, generally, you want to use about 2 tablespoons of meat mixture for each meatball. 
  • Cook your peppers for approximately 25 minutes.  The internal temperature should reach at least 165º F.  Since ovens can vary, I usually begin checking the temperature about 5 minutes before the timer goes off.  I usually let mine go to 170º F.  Your meatballs, being smaller than the pepper filling, will likely be done to 165º F in 12-15 minutes.  Please always be certain to check the internal temperature to ensure that your meat is fully cooked.  This recipe gave me four stuffed peppers and 28 meatballs.

Whether you’re making stuffed peppers or meatballs, or both!, please feel free to let me know how they turned out for you.  I hope you enjoy them!

“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:  naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”  Matthew 25:35-36

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Unity

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Psalm 133:1

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Residual Oddments and A Fish Pie

… l’art d’accommoder les restes ….”  Christian Louboutin

Leftovers – in some circles a dirty word – can be wonderful, tasty, and invaluable to the conscientious culinarian.  Most of our weekday lunches are day-old or two-day-old leftovers camouflaged so as to reemerge as other than a redux of a prior meal.  Saturday’s pretzel rolls and “come back” sauce were used in Monday’s lunch of chicken salad following Sunday’s roast chicken.  I whipped up a lovely chicken salad with the leftover chicken (diced), celery, onion, grated carrot, and mayonnaise, added 2 tablespoons of the “come back” sauce to the mix, and plopped it on pretzel rolls with some hand-sliced Jarlsberg and lettuce (also from Saturday’s oyster po’boys) that had been washed and stored in paper towel to absorb any moisture.  All the rolls, but for one, were now gone, the sauce was substantially reduced (we finished all but a tablespoon or so of the sauce by serving it up alongside our Monday night frittata), the lettuce was gone, and the chicken was no more.  😊  Hubby even ate that last roll with his frittata. 

This morning with my coffee, I enjoyed the last slice of Monday’s “Perfect Pear Cake,” and for lunch today, we finished off the last two slices of last night’s frittata with the rice remaining from Sunday’s dinner.  I chopped up the last of the frittata and “stir fried” it in a little olive oil with the rice for lunch today.  That and some apple slices made for a yummilicious meal.

Today there was vegetable broth simmering away on the stovetop in preparation for tonight’s fish pie and Thursday night’s butternut-pear soup.  I had a head of Napa cabbage that, on its arrival last Thursday, was looking a tad sad.  I bagged it and put it in the fridge and, when I checked on its welfare this morning, it was looking even more forlorn.  ☹  So, before all was lost, I cut it up and tossed it in with the celery, carrots, mushrooms, onions, garlic cloves, and parsley that is my veggie broth combo.  WOO HOO!  No waste!  😊  Not sure about others, but I always do my stock/broth in my pasta pot.  It has the removable insert that is so handy for draining even non-pasta, and I don’t have to strain it through a colander or sieve and into yet another something.  I’m always delighted with just one pot! 

Tonight’s fish pie is my adaptation of the “Easy British Fish Pie” found at The Spruce Eats: https://www.thespruceeats.com/traditional-british-fish-pie-recipe-435284.  I do add chopped hard-cooked egg to mine, dice up a couple small gold potatoes, and use puff pastry for the top.  If I have shrimp shells in the freezer, I’ll make a seafood stock but, more often than not, I use a quick and easy veggie broth to make this dish.  One time I completely forgot about whipping up some potatoes for the topping and turned this into an awesome seafood chowder with the addition of a little bit of heavy cream to thin (but not too thin!) out the creamy base.  SO GOOD!  We’ll have the fish pie tonight with zucchini sliced and sautéed in ghee until the slices caramelize. 

As you plan your menu, do you think about how to use up those residual oddments for another meal?  It’s taken me a while and, if I’m honest, I’m still learning all the various parts of creative culinaria.  😉 

“The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.  He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.”  Proverbs 18:8-9

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A Perfect Pear Cake

“Maggie: Sweet, juicy, soft on your tongue, grainy like a sugary sand that dissolves in your mouth. How’s that? Seth: It’s perfect.”

City of Angels (1998)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cardamom
  • 8 tablespoons (0.5 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 mall pears, cored and sliced

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F., and grease a 9-inch cake pan (I use a bit of olive oil, but you can also use butter).
  2. In a bowl, mix/whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cardamom.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat on low speed until well combined. Add half the flour mixture alternating with the the milk, and finishing with the remaining half of the flour mixture, beating on low speed until smooth. (Note: the batter will be thick.)
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Arrange the pear pieces on top, skin side up, evenly over the top of the batter. Most recently I used one large Bosc pear which worked beautifully.
  5. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes, until the top is a golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  6. While the cake is still hot, run a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the cake. Let the cake cool completely before removing it from the pan. After covering the top of the pan with a plate, invert the plate and pan and, if needed, gently tap the bottom of the pan to release the cake. Once the cake is out of the pan, you can invert it once more onto another plate to serve. If you prefer, you can cut and serve this directly from the pan. While I cut this into 8 slices, it could easily serve 10. We absolutely love this with some good French vanilla ice cream, and just a drizzle of caramel sauce.

Don’t worry if it doesn’t all get eaten; just wrap it tightly and leave it on the counter. It makes a fabulous breakfast with a cup of coffee. I can’t wait to try this when peaches are in season; I’m certain it will be swoon worthy.

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

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“We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammarskjold

This quote reminds me of that old photography instruction, “Fill the frame!” Hubby and I love frames, especially old and antique wooden frames.  When we see a frame that we like or, as in this case, something that would make a fabulous frame, we snap it up immediately!  About a month ago, hubby was in a local secondhand store, saw a lovely old wooden tray with brass handles, and snatched it up for $5.00.  Under the clear glass center of the tray was a handmade, filet crochet, dove-drawn chariot complete with cherub or, perhaps, it’s Cupid (who, by the way, was not always portrayed as chubby and naked).  While I love filet crochet, I’m not a huge fan of cherubs (or Cupid) unless, of course, it’s Valentine’s Day.  😊 This particular scene included a couple of holes and other needed repair work, and was slowly slipping downward.

So, there was a need to decide what should go under the glass in our newly acquired tray.  Sadly, although we have many things — art, stitchery, etc. – in need of framing, we had nothing that would really be a perfect fit for the tray.  I pondered, we talked, I pondered, and we talked some more.  Eureka!  What are trays used for?  Other than decoration, they are used to carry and serve, yes?  In short, entertainment/hospitality. 

I had recently been hanging ten on the web, not really looking for anything specific; it was a rare opportunity to simply kill a little time.  As I did so, I found a truly beautiful bench.  Now the price of the bench was far beyond my means, BUT if I turned it into counted cross-stitch, I could own the bench, et voila, an idea was born.  A well-cushioned bench for two; company and me.  There’s that hospitality thing again, and then the perfect Bible verse hit me. I’ll be stitching this on 36-count linen, over two, and it will undoubtedly take quite a while. I promise, however, to post a picture of it in its lovely tray frame once completed.  

Every day is an opportunity to be a blessing to someone. How can you be a blessing today? Make it a magnificent Monday! 😊

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers; for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”  Hebrews 13:2

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