We’re going to have a TV Party tonight. All Right! Or, oops, a Pumpkin Party. Same thing, maybe?

Oh, dear, lord where did TV Party come back from? Black Flag – Henry Rollins – Repo Man. Such an odd thing – yes, odd but funny and strange in the same way the film Raising Arizona is.

D&D_2167Well, every year I go to Scott Novota’s pumpkin party – Strong Street Studio. Just one of those things I save my little money for and then spend ridiculous amounts to purchase two or three blown glass pumpkins. This year for two really beautiful pumpkins I spent $129.00. But this is only my “stupid” waste of my money. I am not a clothes shopper, I do like shoes, but I am just not a shopper – I put it off as long as frigging possible. Right now, I need new jeans, new Keds, and a few lot more long-sleeved shirts, but it is such a chore.  The MotH should be grateful, really. So I do not feel too bad for spending dumb amounts of money on glass pumpkins.

Can’t help myself, but I have this thing for individually blown glass pumpkins. It is because the MotH surprised me for my birthday not long after we moved to Pensacola with a glass blowing weekend class. I have been, for a very long time, a potter – through high schools (every year) and in community college, and then in a community center. Pottery and glass blowing seemed so similar to me, but they are very different, and at the same time a little similar too.

I guess after the glass blowing weekend you realize how difficult it is – especially if you are a female because arm strength is a big part of this job – same for throwing on a wheel, but glass is way heavier than clay. I can attest to that. And dear lord, the rod you have to put the molten glass is not light weight either. Out of my depth.

So I have an appreciation for Strong Street Studio – I would like to apprentice there – much as I would like to apprentice at Au Peche Mignon. I wonder am I too old to do either – and that depresses me greatly. Slightly opposite apprenticeships if you think about it.

My collection – so far. And this. The rest are here.

But this is, by far, my favorite. It just looks so wickedly evil. Never seen one that was its equal. dd_img_0850-edit

Sometimes (Often Times) I have this in my bag …

Actually (and I hate to use that word – really hate it*), this is not terribly exciting, but it makes my day at the office (how sad is that?). It is a lemon – I know, So. Very. Exciting. sigh.

I have this habit of bringing together odd bits of food from home for my breakfast / lunch to cobble together and occasionally make a great lunch hack. I just prefer it to buying lunch out. Snob that I am, I like my cooking better than most others. Probably because I make the things I like – like right now, I am on a pan-roasted mushroom trip. Not sure why, but it works for me.

I tend to eat crackers for breakfast just to choke down the stupid mess of meds for the equally stupid lupus that has become a very crappie part of my life recently – hello, medical field – not impressed so far. Okay – enough of that.

Back to it – It is amazing what a fresh lemon can do – just the juice, since I do not have a zester at the office. Although I probably should think about getting one. Fresh lemon (or lime) zest is just lovely. What about grapefruit zest – now there is an idea. Also need a pepper grinder too, if I really want to make the lunch hack thing special (and we all want it to be special, don’t we?)

We have the “Real Lemon” juice in a bottle in the office fridge, but it is just so lame compared to fresh lemon – even if the lemon is kind of a lame, old-ish lemon from the back of my fridge at the house – that juice makes all the difference. The difference is really very telling – not a joke. cropped-dd_1784

So I have some left over rice, maybe with some artichoke hearts in it, and then I add my favorite garlicy pan-roasted mushrooms on top and heat it up. What makes it perfect? Fresh lemon juice. You see where this is going, right?

Just put a lemon in your bag. It will be fine. And it is kind of cool. Kind of like a fez.~

* Inspector Morse always hated that word too and I love my Morse (John Thaw). That’s a post for a whole other time. Or as Dr River Song would say, “That’s a whole other birthday.” Yes, a cool Dr. Who reference~. My total geek is showing.

When you get right down to it  – it is the author of the Morse stories, Colin Dexter that, I think,  hated “actually.” Understandable. But I do have to quibble with his use of “sludgy” green eyes – seems to be a recurring theme that I resent because my green eyes are said to be lovely. I was going to say hot, but only blue eyes and brown eyes are hot and to be honest, no one knows what to do with hazel eyes. Genetic randomness right there.

The Boy has lovely blue eyes that can turn grey depending on what he is wearing or even what kind of mood he is in. I did not know that could happen. But how does a child with two green-eyed parents end up with a blue-eyed child. Apparently blue eyes can stay hidden from previous generations, so I expect that is it. Way to much science for me. Hello, Gregor Mendel and principals of inheritance. See, I did learn some science in Jr. High School. Who knew?

““

Well, we just went for a wander, didn’t we? Or, I guess it was me that let this tiny brain of mine wander a bit.

Back to lemons, in your bag, to make you desk meal (lunch hack) a real treat vs. a total bore. Your call.

 

Sun-Dried Tomato Rice with Pecorino

So the Publix had a large-ish jar of oil packed sun-dried tomatoes on sale a bit ago and I went for it. I usually get the dry ones and rehydrate them, but figured I might as well try this because it was a good deal. So then I had to figure out what to do with them and this was an early thought. And one I liked quite a bit and made for an easy and great lunch. Though I will say I added, once again, some fresh lemon juice to enhance the flavors of everything. This also keeps me from adding salt, and I just can’t help but think that is a good thing.D&D_2188

2 Tbs sun-dried tomato oil
1 Tbs canola oil
1 medium shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup short grain rice
2 cups water with 1 tsp vegetable bullion (Better than Bouillon)
1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, minced and patted very dry – yes, very dry
Pecorino or Parmesan – it is for the salt, mostly.

Heat oils to medium and add shallots and cook until soft. Add minced garlic and let get soft, but no color – about 1-2 minutes. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Stir for one minute, then add water/bouillon mixture. Bring to boil and then, cover and reduce to a simmer – just like you regularly cook rice – until liquid is absorbed. Remove from burner and let steam with lid on. I just push it to the back of the stove where there are no burners on. That little bit of steaming helps a lot. I do this for every pot of rice I make – and I make a rice quite often – all different types – long grain, jasmine, short grain, arborio. You get the idea.

Add sun-dried tomatoes and mix in grated Pecorino. And there is lunch. Simple.

21 Oct 2017
This was a crap shoot recipe. I made it with what I had on hand at the time because I needed some breakfast/lunch at the office. I prefer my own food to going to a restaurant in most cases. At the office, I added some fresh lemon juice, just to brighten the flavor.
There is something about sun-dried tomatoes I love, but you have to use them with restraint because they can make things really sweet. I have only recently started using the oil packed ones just to try something different. So far, so good, but acid and salt need to be balanced with the sweetness.

This worked, but I think I will work on it some more because it is just not quite there – at least for me. Maybe some artichokes or blanched asparagus – not sure, but a little more veg could be a very good thing. Mushrooms?

This is why lunch hacks are so cool. Just bring what’s in the fridge at home to the office and then sort it all out – try different combinations. See what you can pull together from the random things at the office. It is like a work place version of the Food Network show, Chopped. “Here are some random items – now make yourself some lunch.”

Really, that is a more accurate description than I had ever considered.

Tomato Soup

I am hard pressed to think of a tomato soup I won’t at least try^. It is my favorite kind of soup to make, granted I prefer a bisque and in my mind, most bisques do fine with out the cream. Somehow when you get to the point of adding cream, I taste the soup, and it does not seem necessary. Also, this makes reheating a little less precarious.D&D_2185

2 Tbs olive oil
3 small yellow onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried basil
32 ozs water with about a heaping tsp of Better than Bouillon* (veg)- heated
2 – 28 oz cans of whole tomatoes with the juice
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped
1 1/2 Tbs balsamic vinegar

garnish – chives? parsley? scallions? chevre? croutons? grilled cheese croutons?

In a large pot heat olive oil. Add onions and cook until soft, add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until soft, but not browned. Add dried herbs and stir for 30 seconds. Add broth and tomatoes with juice and crush the tomatoes with a potato masher. Bring to a simmer over medium high heat. Reduce to low, add sun-dried tomatoes and simmer 30 minutes. Let cool briefly, add balsamic vinegar, and then purée with an immersion blender. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. A little swirl of good olive oil can be very nice.

Garnish with chives and cheese toasts. Or what ever floats your boat.

Serves 6 (I really think more than that)

^Exception – any tomato based soup with meat in it. I am a real vegetarian when it comes to soup – just don’t like the texture of meat in a soup. Blech.

*This stuff keeps forever the fridge. Thanks America’s Test Kitchen for the recommendation.

Well, this soup seemed to be made just in time. The Boy had a head cold with a sore throat and this was just the thing for him. It also made plenty enough that I could take two meals worth to the office. It became my favorite lunch hack of October I think. I made a blue cheese/cheddar toast to put into the soup at work and it was really very good.

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Tomato Soup Lunch Hack

Next time, I’ll see if someone would like to split it with me, because it is quite a lot for just me and The Boy. But sharing is always a good thing, I think.

I think my only problem were the tomato seeds – maybe I should press it through a fine mesh strainer next time. We’ll see. There are so many other tomato soup recipes to try, it might be a while till I get back to this one. But it will definitely stay in the rotation, especially since it can be made any time of year – yeah – canned tomatoes!

Bittersweet (Duck Egg) Brownies

I’ve been thinking about what to do with my latest batch (dozen) of duck eggs. They are just slightly richer and sometimes a little larger than chicken eggs, though not always bigger. I’m not a huge brownie person, but think about it – rich eggs in lots of chocolate. I can see how this should be a very good thing. I can also see how my friends who really like chocolate will like them – at least I hope so. D&D_2172

16 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into Tbs
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces (Ghirardelli)
4 eggs – fresh local duck eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. fine salt
1 cup flour
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (Renfroes’)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper; grease paper. Set pan aside.

Pour enough water into a 4-quart saucepan that it reaches a depth of 1″. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low. Combine butter and chocolate in a medium bowl; set bowl over saucepan. Cook, stirring, until melted and smooth, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

Whisk together eggs in a large bowl. Add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt; whisk to combine. Stir in chocolate mixture; fold in flour. Pour batter into prepared pan; spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 30–35 minutes. Let cool on a rack. Cut and serve.

Source: Saveur – Nick Malgieri (Nick’s “Supernatural” Brownies)

I cut these into small bite-sized pieces and I am glad I did – they are super rich. In my head, these need to be crumbled into some vanilla ice cream – and that, in and of itself, is rather funny, since I’m (again) not a huge brownie/chocolate fan and really do not care for ice cream either. But I really need to get the boy to get some soft serve from somewhere and give that a try.

The pieces in the center are almost fudge like and the ones on the edges, my favorite, have that little crispy bit of edge. Really, for someone who does not care for brownies, these are pretty damn good. But, rich, oh. so. very. rich.

Hummus Cheddar Iceberg Sandwich

This might just be a sandwich born of desperation or poverty or both. This is simple sandwich but the flavors mix well together, but only if you make the hummus a day ahead – again a flavor-melding-together kind of thing.D&D_2110

For hummus, here is what I do:

Rinse a can of garbanzo beans* – really rinse them well. This is a key step. While they are draining, mince two cloves of garlic in the food processor, add the garbanzo beans, and the juice of two decent-sized lemons. You can add less, but why would you? Add two big tablespoons of tahini, making sure it’s mixed well because of its maddening habit of separating. Add a pinch of salt and whirl away. If it needs it, add a little water to make it smoother. That’s it. Pretty simple really. Then wait till tomorrow to eat it. Advanced planning required. This is so not optional.

Then the rest is just as simple. White bread (although a good wheat bread or Italian bread would not go amiss here either), with a little Duke’s mayonnaise, a good slather of hummus, sliced cheddar (I got it from the deli this time) and a bit of crunchy iceberg lettuce. Dead simple and really amazingly good.

 

*Yes, yes, you can certainly do this with dried garbanzo beans, but most of the time, I just opt for a can of beans – quicker, easier, and well, it works with my way of making good food.

Chicken Salad Sandwich

I love a really good chicken salad sandwich. But to me this is just a simple chicken salad on white bread with a little mayo and if I’m feeling really special, some iceberg lettuce.

This is another no-recipe recipe.

Poach chicken breasts. I do this in just water because then I can give the poaching liquid to the dog. But, if you want, you can add bay leaves or garlic cloves, and even peppercorns to the water. Poach low and slow just make sure the chicken is covered by at least an inch of water. Not sure how long, but until it falls apart when you pick it up with a fork – this also makes sure the interior is not still pink.

Remove chicken from water and let cool to room temperature. (Give a dog chicken water and he will love you, pretty much, forever).

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Yep – it’s a mess, but a very good mess.

Shred or chop chicken to whatever size you prefer. I am a medium dice/shred person.

Now here is where things get subjective. Things needed: Duke’s mayonnaise, celery, shallots, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Here is where I get a little weird exacting. I like, for two good sized chicken breasts (and, no, I don’t weigh them but I should), 3 celery stalks including the leaves. The thing is – you must peel the celery. This is just not optional. Get out that serrated vegetable peeler and go to town. It gets rid of those pesky strings that no one ever wants to eat. Then split the ribs into three pieces lengthwise and the mince well. I did say exacting, right?

Now for the shallots – two medium or one large, minced. I get my shallots at Bailey’s Farmers’ Market – they sell them by weight, unlike the grocery store that sells them by some little bag. At Bailey’s, I also get to pick the ones I want – yes, this is the way to do things.

Once all the chopping is done, mix celery and shallots into chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Add Duke’s mayonnaise to taste – remember, as my mom always said, you can always more, but you can’t take it away. Taste as you go and season with more salt and pepper if necessary. Add lemon juice if you would like. Yes you do want to do that.

For the sandwich you need really fresh soft white bread*. Spread one side with more Duke’s and pile on the chicken salad. Then add the super crunchy iceberg lettuce that you cored, washed and have chilling in the fridge. Another option – toast the white bread first. Yes, do.

This, I know, is simple food, but sometimes that is what is best and even more often, that is just what you need.

Now you could do this with a rotisserie chicken, not that I ever have, but I guess in a pinch it would do. If you are really jonesing for some chicken salad. Who am I to judge?

* or Italian bread or a good whole wheat.