Friday, October 18, 2013

Still here

Sorry, seems like I've abandoned this blog, but that isn't exactly what happened...

I couldn't think of much to say, or to talk about, or anything "out of the rut" to share recipes for.  And I got busy with other things...then I just never got around to coming back.

BUT - all  that should change... I hope :)

I'd like to get back into sharing and writing on both my blogs - this food related one, and my other craft and assorted blabbering one - catsrmecrafter.blogspot.com, in case you want to have a look see.

I'm not very good with tags and labels for posts.  And not in the habit of adding them!!  But, I'm thinking about trying something different.... Posting themes.  Like, for example, Monday might be "toy day", where I'll post about one of my appliances of gadgets.  Then, maybe Tuesday will be back to basics - simple "staple" recipes for making soup stock, basic recipes, how-to basic recipes for the newbie or inexperienced cook.  And so on....Wednesday, maybe I'll do a "free for all" where I'll post reviews if we go to a restaurant or something...

Just trying to get things "back on track".  But don't look for this to happen any time soon!!  Unfortunately, my life is still a little chaotic, and on top of that, I seem to have picked up a bug of some sort - aches, upset tummy, puffy eyes...  So, it may be another couple weeks before I can try to reset my routine.

So, hope to "see" you all soon!!

Friday, January 18, 2013

1/18/13 I have to stop doing that...

I have to stop saying I'll download pictures from my camera and post - seems every time I do, my day changes and I have to renege... That happens all the time on my other blog.

So, I'll do my part two post about the Paddlewheel tomorrow later.

In the meantime, yesterday I did a stir fry for supper.  It wasn't one of my better ones, unfortunately.  I have a bunch of cut up veggies in the freezer, but that wasn't the problem.  I couldn't find my sauces and spices that I normally use.  And, the meat was storebought precut for stir fry.  It was thicker than I'd normally slice the meat, so that meant a messed up cooking time, and tough meat. :(

Somewhere, while it was still edible, both my husband and I agreed that it was missing something.  Neither of us could put our finger on it, though.  I think it might have been pepper - I usually add fresh ground pepper when I do a stirfry... somehow or other I forgot this time.  Like I said, though, it was edible, and tasted "ok", but not "great" like it normally does.

At least it was a break from the rut I'm usually in for dinners!  (now I need to decide what to make for tonight!)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

1/17/13 You can never go home....

I had heard that a restaurant in a downtown department store was closing.  I knew the store itself had been sold, and I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.  I just hadn't really given it any though. Yet, when I heard the announcement that the restaurant was going to close, I decided I wanted to go.  So, I contacted my new friend, A., and asked her if she'd like to go with me.

Well, it was a disappointment.  I shouldn't really complain, since I'm just as guilty of not going to the store or restaurant in many years.  But, there had been some renovations since the last time I was there; nothing major, but took some of the charm away.  And I was shocked, as we took the escalator to the top floor, that several of the floors were drastically reduced in size and scope, and one floor was completely closed off!!  Oh, the times I recall getting off the escalator to browse in the book department...

Anyway, we went in, picked up our trays to select some food (cafeteria style) --- there was nearly nothing there.  The sign indicated your soup could come in a cup, bowl, or big bowl - they only had the smaller bowls.  Another section - the salad bar - had horribly thin pickings.  The sandwich bar (one of the few places I ever found sandwiches that I liked) was totally closed/empty/darkened.... The "burger bar" was only serving fries and gravy.  No burgers.  The hot meal section - the sign apologized that there was no roast beef, no turkey today.  The gentleman in front of me requested shepherd's pie - sorry, didn't have any - only sausages.  I had rice and beans with mine.... the other options were carrots, mashed potatoes, gravy, and some sort of fried square potatoes - maybe they were meant to be "roasted", but they looked like little hash brown cubes.  Dessert  - I had been looking forward to maybe finding some jello squares with whipped cream on top - another treat I remember only really liking served that way - but all they had were some slices of apple pie (quite thin - not the slice/portion size, but the pie - I wouldn't have expected a "deep dish" apple pie, but certainly more than a half inch deep) and a small assortment of four small "slices" - you know, like a marshmallow slice, a brownie, two others that didn't appeal to my taste...

I am still not quite comfortable taking pictures of my food.  In fairness I will say that the sausages were good - probably the first time in about 4 years that I have eaten other than home made sausages.  And the rice wasn't dry, but could have had a bit more flavour.  And the beans were cooked.  I also had a bun - or was it a biscuit?  To me, a biscuit should be about half the size of this thing.  It was about the size of a hamburger bun around, and what the pie lacked in height, this more than made up for!  (no, I didn't bother getting a dessert there).  Anyway, the bun had a melted cheese crust on top, and what I believe to be spinach inside.  It was rather dry - which is why the word "biscuit" probably is better to describe it.

The restaurant itself - the renovations took their toll.  It just isn't the same as it was.... I did take pictures.  I'll upload them tomorrow, and tell more about the atmosphere...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

1/16/13 In a rut

I seem to be in a rut again.  Can't think of interesting things to cook.  Last night I made chili.  Maybe tonight will be leftovers - except I'm not sure if that is what my husband took to work for lunch.  I don't think so, since there is still so much left..

I also think I should make some sort of notes to myself, so I know what I've posted about before, and what I don't need to repeat myself about.  I should also try to remember to utilize the blog labels a bit better - I started adding the label "recipe" if I include one.  I think I'll make some other labels - general chit-chat for posts like today, restaurant reviews for the few I ever go to, toys when I talk about my toys ;)

In the meantime - I know I don't always have to post, I just feel like doing it.  Discipline, getting in the habit of keeping track of what the date is for one thing.  Getting in the habit of doing some sort of writing each day - I have a written project I need to do.  I used to be really good at that sort of thing - got A's and A+'s in University for term papers on a regular basis.  But for some reason - I'm out of practice...

But I digress. That has nothing to do with food! :)

I do love food - love to eat, mostly love to cook.  Just not very good at the ideas of what to cook sometimes.  Sometimes, I get to thinking ahead- my grandson will be spending a weekend with us soon, and he has a few likes/dislikes to consider.  So, I've been mentally planning meals for that.  Plus, I'm getting a little ahead of myself thinking about a birthday cake I will be making and maybe special dinner.  Not sure about the making dinner part.  So that kind of takes up all the thinking room, bumping the mundane, every day dinners right out of my head!!

Tomorrow will be better... I think I'll do a stir fry for supper tomorrow.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

1/15/13 Errands, shopping, library

Yes, those things all have to do with food.  Ok, maybe not all my errands today were food related.  But, I did do my grocery shopping.  I enjoy it, some days.  Other days, it is simply a chore.  Today was somewhere in between.  I tried to keep to my list today and not buy any extras.  I did buy something I'd seen advertised on TV, though.

President's Choice often advertises various products on TV.  Sometimes, they are at a special price, other times they are seasonal foods.  They just had a bunch of Christmas special foods, that are no longer available.  A few years back, I kept seeing an ad for a seafood or shrimp "en papiatte" (I know I probably butchered the spelling of that -  high school French was a long time ago - my apologies to the Francophones of the city who may be reading this).  Anyway, basically shrimp in a paper pouch.  The pictures on TV looked interesting, and the price was also attractive.  By the time I finally found some in the local store, the price had risen to the point that it wasn't worth the risk that it wouldn't be well received.  So, I never did buy it.  BUT - a good friend came to my rescue.  She told me of a recipe she had to make it.   I now make it every so often.  (I will share the recipe next time I do)  Well, now I saw an advertisement for  "bacon marmalade".  Since I love bacon so much, I figured I'd try it...

It is a luxury.  Not cheap, but the jar is big enough, that it isn't too much...

I opened it when I got home.  I didn't really have any preconceptions.  I really didn't know what to expect.  But, I have to be honest - I'm a little disappointed.  It tastes like breakfast.  Like, as if you were to make yourself some bacon (and probably eggs) and have toast with marmalade on it on the side... As if, you take a bite of bacon, then a bite of toast...   In other words, nothing special... So, I'll eat the jar I have, but I won't likely buy it again.

Before I went grocery shopping, though, I stopped in at the library. Returned a book, picked up one on hold.  But for some reason, I was thinking about a birthday meal I'll be making in a few weeks, and how I will need to pick up the ingredients for the cake soon, which led me to think about Mexican food/cooking, and I thought I'd see what sort of Mexican cookbooks were at my branch.  I came out with not just the one book I went in to get, but four Mexican recipe books, one Canadian cookbook, a book on Chrsitmas traditions, and a book of short stories about dogs (one of the Chicken Soup for the Soul books).  Quite an armful!!

So, I know what I'll be doing for a while ;)

Monday, January 14, 2013

1/14/13 Another dislike...

Not really meaning to be so very negative...

In fact, in a couple days I'll be meeting up with another Manitoba Food Blogger, and we'll be going to The Bay Paddlewheel for a lunch before it closes... wait a minute - maybe that is a negative rather than the positive I was working it up to be...

I have so many good memories of the Paddlewheel restaurant, and it will be great to get to know a new friend in person, that I guess I kind of forgot the sad part that it will be closing down.  So many great restaurants are closing... not sure if it is all easy to blame on the economy, since there are also lots of new restaurants opening.  I guess it is just a reshuffling.  Would be kind of hard for such an establishment to simply "downsize" - you need your full staff of cooks and serving personnel, and you really can't get by with a smaller kitchen (trust me on that one!) or dining room...

But, what I'd meant to post about is that I'm probably one of the few people on the planet who could "take it or leave it" when it comes to chocolate.  Really.  I sometimes crave it when I'm feeling down, and I love mint chocolate and I love peanut butter cups.  But plain chocolate?  Not so much.  Maybe because the quality just isn't the same as it used to be...

Well, at least later in the week, I'll have a happier, with underlying sadness, post to make.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

1/13/13 Tea Time!

I once wrote about tea on my regular blog.  But that was a while ago...

I've been a tea drinker ever since I can remember... I used to get up in the morning, and sit in the kitchen with my Dad and have a cup of tea.  Only thing I liked about going to school, lol.  I still have my favourite teacup!!  I also still have the Bunnykins two-cup teapot that my sister bought me when I was born (or maybe it was my first birthday - even she didn't recall exactly).

At one point in time, I think when I was in highschool, I started drinking coffee "because that is what people do".  I guess I must have thought that I would develop a taste for it eventually... I don't recall ever really liking coffee.  Though, I will admit, that now and again I'd have a cup at a restaurant when we used to go out for breakfast or brunch, and it would be "good".

A few years ago, though, I decided that it was silly to drink something that I didn't enjoy one bit, "just because".  So, I stopped.  It has been - oh, gee, I don't even remember exactly, but four or five years at least...

I now drink tea.  My preferred tea is English breakfast.  I also enjoy a cup of Earl Grey now and again.  And I also like Lady Grey, and Irish breakfast.  Then there are the herbals... not all created equal, I'm afraid!!  And finally, regular tea.

Under the heading of "herbal", I lump in all flavoured teas.  So, some of them are really black, green or white teas with flavourings, while others are tisanes.  But I just like to drink it, not get all technical about what it is.  I do know the difference, but when I'm sitting by myself in my kitchen, I really don't much care!  I just know what I like to drink ;)

Today, I felt like having one of the "herbals".  As I said, though, they aren't created equal!  Some of them are "just as good" as others - Celestial Seasonings, and PC store brand for example.  I enjoy either one - just depends on price and flavour availability and mood.  Stash is a slightly better quality, but also a bit pricier, so I tend to hoard that one and only drink it for special.  Another of the hoarded teas is David's Tea.  That is so good, but expensive!!  So those are for sure special occasion teas!! :)

Then there is the one I'm drinking, or should I say, just finished drinking.  A tea I'm stuck with...

Back in the summer, a friend was having a "tea party".  Home party sales, but tea.  (remember back when Tupperware was the only home party thing?) So, to help out, I ordered a "sampler" thing.  I'm very dissappointed.  I find them to be flavourless... but I guess I have to drink them, because I've opened them all to try, so I can't give them away.  And the price of them - not that I begrudge spending to help my friend - but it really makes it hard to just throw the tea into the composter.  I've just finished a cup of cinnamon tea, and I think I'd get more cinnamon flavour if I'd put my jar of spice on the counter beside the cup while I steeped it...  Oh well - at least I'm not thirsty anymore...

I think I'll go have a cup of David's Tea to rinse the bad taste out of my mouth....

Saturday, January 12, 2013

1/12/13 Snow Day

Well, the weather people predicted a blizzard for us.  Some areas they did get a real blizzard, others got blizzard like conditions.   We got what I would call a winter storm.  Lots of wind, strong cold nasty wind, and some snow.  So there was cold and drifts of snow.  But, it did get me thinking about being prepared.

It seems, somehow, that I'm finding my way more and more often to blogs that have a lot of "emergency preparedness" themes to them.  I mean, I start out looking at a recipe or craft idea, and find myself reading of home made necessities and how to cook without electricity or with freeze dried foods.

Now, whether the trend is because of popular shows like "The Walking Dead" (which I'm a fan of, btw) and interest in zombies and a zombie apocalypse, or fears of the economy falling apart, or news reports of seemingly increasing in both frequency and intensity of natural weather disasters and wild fires, I don't think it is such a bad thing.  I mean, some of the recipes are neat, and can be made with fresh ingredients.  And there is nothing wrong with being prepared.  Which brings me back to my first paragraph :)

I did do the common sense thing.  I made sure we had food in the house, the dogs and cats had food, and the vehicle was gassed up.  Then, I settled in for a good night's sleep.  Today, sure, there is a lot of shovelling to do.  And it is nasty cold out (a good day to do some baking!).  But, back to the whole preparedness thing.

It seems there are some knee jerk reactions and panic to the ideas.  Some people are ready to build themselves bomb shelters, or bunkers, to protect  themselves and their family from the looting that is "sure to happen."  Sadly, in an emergency, this does happen.  There are those who take advantage of a situation.  But I would like to think there are far more people who will be willing and able to help their friends and neighbours, and even strangers, should there be a major disaster.  In fact, this has been the case in recent years, with the floods and fires and tornadoes and such.

For me, I've lived through blizzards, and floods (though I admit, I didn't suffer the devastation that some have, but there are spin-off effects, too), and power outages.  So far, I've been fairly lucky.  But I also have been fairly calm about these things.  I do what I can to avoid a panic reaction.  Panic tends to mean, confusion and unclear thinking and decision making.

How prepared am I?  Probably not as much as I should be.  I think I could survive short term on what I have to hand right now.  I keep lots of food around, but it is dependent on electricity for refrigeration   Heck, I don't think I even own a manual can opener at the moment!!  Sure, I have some canned goods, and some dry foods (flour, sugar, etc.)  I wouldn't starve.  But, I don't have a stock of fresh water handy.  I do have flashlights and radios.

(Ok, I need to take a second to apologize - I keep getting my train of thought derailed by distractions such as dogs, cats, and a husband!!)

What I wanted to talk more about, though, was the food angle.  One of the things about trying to be prepared, is to be organized, and to freshen the stock.  I mentioned today would have been a great day for baking - well, my recipes and cookbooks are a bit disorganized at the moment, and I can't find the recipes I want to use!  I've been trying to find them for a few weeks...  Also, when people stock up on some things, even though many are prepared for long term storage, they really don't last forever.  A date on a can or package is a "best before" date - often the item inside will still be edible, but may not look or taste as good as when it is fresher, and more importantly, the insides are only as good as the way the container is stored.  I've recently had to throw out what would have otherwise been perfectly good food, well before the date, due to an unnoticed plumbing leak...  

So, besides the rotation and care of the stored stock, one doesn't necessarily have to limit themselves to only using emergency supplies for emergencies!!  I've recently been introduced to a product that I first heard of in blogs, and now have tried.

One of the blogs I follow, the person writing it has really got the emergency prep thing down pat.  I mean, her blog is amazing!!  Recipes, products, how-to...  Anyway, that was where I first heard of a product called "TVP", specifically, Taco TVP.  Now, I'm not a vegan.  Nor a vegetarian.  However, I don't mind eating some non-meat dishes.  I've never developed a taste for some of the vegan "fake meat" items (there are some pretty gross tasting veggie burgers out there, in my opinion), but I don't mind eating tofu once in a while.  Well, I looked at the pictures of some of the things she created with this Taco TVP (btw, for those who haven't come across it before, the TVP is Textured Vegetable Protein).  I figured I could just as easily substitute real taco seasoned ground meat in the recipes.  Oh, one thing I forgot to  mention - the taco "fake meat" is also freeze dried.   Which probably meant, that I couldn't use that product anyway...

Well, it seems I can get it.  I'm not sure exactly how long for, but I was in the fall invited to check out this new product/home party sales thing - Thrive, or Shelf Reliance - freeze dried food products with long shelf life...

I figured I'd try the Taco TVP.  It is actually quite good!!  Not only does this freeze dry food keep well, it is super easy to use, and tastes good.  And it saves money.... So, the first thing I tried, as I said, was the taco TVP.  I also got a can of mushrooms.  These are great, if you decide at the last minute you want to throw some mushrooms in a dish - not worrying about finding fresh mushrooms at the store, having to do all the cutting and cleaning, nor hoping you have a can of mushrooms in the cupboard... Now, in all fairness, they have a reconstituted texture a bit more like canned than fresh, but if you are cooking with them anyway, it sure saves a lot of work!!  And a trip to the store for the freshest possible...   And finally, the other item I bought, (but only just got delivered this past week so I haven't had chance to try it) is freeze dried sour cream.  Now, when I was introduced to the product, a sample of reconstituted butter was provided for testing.  It tasted so good, so creamy, so real....  So, I do have high hopes (and expectations) for the sour cream.  Cost wise - the amount in the can, the amount it will make, is probably the same as if I bought the name brand sour cream from the store. (I normally would buy the no-name/generic kind).  BUT - whenever we need sour cream, I find that I must buy a pre-selected quantity, that is often more than my husband and I need... and I end up throwing an awful lot of green-fuzzy sour cream out.  So in the long run, it is cheaper to buy this way.

I'm going to hostess a party for this stuff, probably in the first week or so of February... comment and let me know if you want an invite... :)

And, no, this post isn't a big commercial or infomercial, nor am I getting anything special for talking about the product (other than, if I do have a party, there are hostess benefits)  But, it really is a part of that whole, being prepared food-wise should there be any need!!  And, this first major storm of the winter is a good reminder for me, that while I may not need to worry about floods or hurricanes, we do have our fair share of natural disasters that it never hurts to be prepared to deal with...

Friday, January 11, 2013

1/11/13 Research

So, I've been playing a bit at cheese making.  Very much a "bit".  I found, some time last fall, a site to make your own "Velveeta" type cheese.  Since I am reducing or eliminating preservatives, I tried it.  Liked it.  But want to play around a bit with some of the ingredients.

I'm not alone in this interest in cheese making.  Several people here in my home town, as well as many other places seem to be looking into or trying their hand at making cheese.  I've already found several blogs about it with recipes, some because others have shared the links, some while researching, others while browsing various recipe sites, and some I just "tripped over" while looking at craft sites (what I mean, is, like my own personal blog, which is primarily about my crafting adventures and my pets, but also talks sometimes about cooking, or TV shows, or other things - so, some of the craft blogs I visit, the authors/bloggers also digress).

This morning, I started looking into some regulations regarding our food industry.  There is not one single body that covers everything - some branches of the government enforce the laws, others create the laws... There are different departments for the food "on the hoof" as it were, as well as for importing or exporting at all levels of production (the animal or seed, the processed food, the packaging...)  There are many regulations that cover everything from single cell embryo to your dinner plate, as well as the diverse ways in which it gets from point A to point Z.

In other words, simply looking up the legality of sourcing milk direct from the cow in order to have the most success at cheese making, isn't so simple after all!!

Hopefully, though, I will be able to gain more information, narrowing down the sources as I go.  Seems that for now, I need to wade through several publications (online, pdf type) to narrow down the focus to investigate further.  The main body regulating what can and cannot be purchased is Canadian Food Inspection Agency.   I'll update this space when I have more details!!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1/10/13 Adapted a recipe.

If you read yesterday's post, then you'll know that when I use the term 'sausage' in the recipe below, I use my home made type.  :)

This was another of those, ''I really want to try it, but don't know if DH will eat it'' recipes.  He took leftovers for lunch the next day....

This all started, really, about 13 years ago (probably close to the day - it was the first full week in January) when we went to the Dominican Republic for a week.  The resort we stayed at one day served what they called ''Lazy Bones Stew''.  I did my best to remember what all was in it, what it was like and so on, but hey, it *has* been 13 years!!  Anyway, what I still recall, was that it had tomatoes and was a clear tomato liquid base (think canned tomatoes, not a creamed soup or juice) and there were likely some other vegetables, too, but it was heavy on the ''bones'' - two inch long pieces of okra.  I loved it!!! It was so good....

I had, once, planted okra in my garden.  I had a half dozen plants, and they produced, but sporadic, and honestly at the time, I didn't quite know what I was going to do with them anyway, nor was I sure how big they were going to grow... That had been before the trip.

Just last spring, I again saw okra seedlings when we went plant and seed shopping.  I bought two, to see if the ground here would still allow them to grow - sort of test subjects.  The okra did well (enough), I got two off it, but unfortunately, they shriveled up in the fridge before I could decide what to do with them.

Superstore had okra in their flyer in the fall -- but the shipment never arrived... Finally, I found some frozen okra.  And started my hunt for gumbo recipes.

What follows is an adaptation of a recipe I found, originating from Canadian Living.  I don`t always like CL`s recipes, but this time, I did use most of what they said, adding my own touches as I went along. :)

Gumbo
half to one pound sausages, cut into bite size pieces, or small meatballs
two chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
2 tbsp corn oil
3 tbsp flour
1/4 red onion, chopped (leftover from another dinner)
1 small cooking onion, chopped  (I would go with all red onion, if I had a whole one)
1/4 to 1/2 cup celery, sliced
1 small red or orange sweet pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic
2 heaping tsp Cajun spice
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 to 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I was afraid the Cajun spice didn't have enough 'kick', so I added the cayenne)
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 small package frozen okra, thawed, then chopped into 1 inch pieces
1/2 to 1 pound shrimp
Rice.


First, cook the meatballs and brown the chicken pieces, seasoning to taste.  Cook rice according to directions. In large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat and mix in flour, browning the flour to make a roux.  Add onions, pepper, celery, and garlic, stirring until sauteed, about four minutes.  Add spices, heat, stirring, for an additional three minutes.  Add water, broth, sausage, and chicken.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for five minutes to thicken slightly.  Add okra, simmer another 5 minutes.  Stir in shrimp, and additional broth if too thick, and return to simmering until the shrimp is cooked - an additional three to five minutes.  Serve with rice.

Well, there it is.  I did learn one thing - my sister mentioned while we were at lunch the other day that she has seen file powder for sale in the city.  So, next time, I might just use some of that, too :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

1/9/13 pre-recipe share

So, I want to share about the dinner I made the other day.

But, before I share the recipe, I need to share the prep part.

See, I make my own sausages now.  Have been doing that for a while.  They just taste so much better.  Well, the first time I made jambalaya, the recipe I used called for sausages, cut up.  So, I did.  The second time I made it, I was either right out, or nearly out of the sausages I made.  And it occurred to me, that it seemed like a shame to go to all that trouble to make sausages, use the casings, just to turn around and cut them up - especially when I knew how to mix up the meat mixture anyway, and could simply eliminate the extra step of stuffing the sausage.

So, that is what I did.  I took my ground pork, and I seasoned it the way I would if I were going to make sausages - basil, crushed chilies, fresh course ground pepper, crushed garlic, parsley - then I made little meatballs.  Like, very little - maybe an inch in diameter.  I placed these on a cookie sheet, and baked them till done.  I really don't like meatballs that are half burned, or torn up because they stuck to the pan, etc.

Anyway, that is what I did, then I mixed them into my jambalaya.  Perfect!!

So, the other day, the recipe I wanted to try making also called for sausages.  Well, I had some premixed ground pork from making my spaghetti and meatballs, so that is what I used - not quite spiced the same, and did have the egg and oats I use when making burger shapes or  meatloaf shapes, but they still worked in the new recipe.

Well - that is the prep for tomorrow's recipe share.  :)  If you want to use premade sausages, that is fine.  But if you want to make the mini meatball sausage substitutes, they work great :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

1/8/13 Rae & Jerry's

So, met my sister for lunch.  Was a great little visit.  She wanted to sit in the lounge; she really enjoys their frozen margaritas.  I had one once before, when she invited me to lunch there a year or so ago.  That was my first visit.  I don't recall much about it, to tell the truth... Anyway.  Today, I looked at the lunch menu, and there just wasn't much that appealed to me... I mean, maybe they make good burgers, but I can make that at home.  And honestly, I'm the kind of person who likes to go out to eat something *different*.  So we settled on sharing a Greek salad.

Definitely more than enough for two - there was even leftovers on the plate.  She proclaims it the best Greek salad in the city.  I honestly haven't had too many Greek salads, though I will say that I miss the one I've had at Park Tower (which is now, sadly, closed).  So, having said that, the salad was good.  The cucumber and tomatoes were cut into big chunks, which I think I should have asked for a knife to cut them smaller.  I mean, I like to be able to get a mix of food in each mouthful - in this case, I could only fit one veggie at a time in... The lettuce and peppers were also cut into larger pieces, but at least I could eat them together.  And the onions... Well, they were sliced, which is good, but they were sliced thin.  Which means, not enough onion to stick the fork into to pick up.  So... It was rather like trying to eat spaghetti.

They were, however generous with the black olives - pit in, but fortunately I have had the misfortune to not realize a restaurant would serve them that way in the past, so I stabbed the first one with a fork to avoid that unpleasantness again.  Also, as my sister doesn't like the olives, I got to eat them all :)  They are also very generous with the feta cheese - which is a good thing, because both my sister and I *LOVE* feta :)

So, overall my opinion of the Greek salad is about a 7 out of 10.  Flavour, freshness, portion - all good.  But the preparation of the veggies (size of chunks, slices) brought it down in my opinion.

Oh, and I had tea with it - Good quality brand of Earl Grey, but the waitress asking me if I wanted more water first before I'd even finished steeping the first cup, then several more times while I was drinking (and at least one time when I had a mouthful of food and couldn't answer) was a bit annoying... I appreciate the attention to detail and service, but really... I mean, how do I know if I'll need more water before I've even started to drink the first cup???  Yet, even though when the tea was ordered, she asked if I took anything like milk or sugar, we did need to remind her to actually bring the sugar...  So, I would say the service could use a bit of improvement...

I'm sure my sister, if she were to read this, will disagree - she is apparently a regular there.  Me, this is only my second visit, and both times were at my sister's invitation and treat...

I do believe that the first time, I enjoyed it much  more - and I had a frozen margarita with her that time, and I believe we did the shared salad thing then, too...  So, even though I don't rate today's visit very highly, I would have to try it at least one more time to give a true, fair review.  (Plus, this is my first ever blog review, and it is strictly my own opinion - I wouldn't want anyone to think that I have any major problem with the restaurant)

Monday, January 7, 2013

1/7/13 Short post

Not much to say today.  Yesterday's chicken got a dusting of "Keg" seasoning, a mixed blend of spices and herbs, and a dusting of pepper.  Turned out fabulous!! :)  And it turned out that the freezer in the house held chopped peppers, not carrots, so I made beans to go with.  The frozen carrots are in the extra fridge that is in our garage... I didn't feel like running out there.

Tomorrow, I'll have lots to report on - making a new to me recipe tonight, and my sister has invited me to lunch tomorrow at Ray and Jerry's.  :)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

1/6/13 Roasted Chicken

Yesterday's supper turned into a "grab a sandwich or something" kind of meal.  Nothing at all special...  Plumbing repairs, even simple ones, seem to take a lot out of you...;)

BUT - today, being Sunday (wondering - does anyone do "Sunday Roast" anymore?)  I thought I'd do a whole chicken.  We haven't had chicken for a while.

It isn't a very big one - there are only two of us to eat it, after all.  So it won't get stuffed.  But it will get seasoned!  I'll be making mashed potatoes to go with, and probably carrots.  I have enough of them in the freezer!!  Usually, I do corn with chicken parts.  But I like to do peas or carrots with roasted.  And of course, there will be gravy, and some "no-name" stove top stuffing.  One of the few "convenience" things I still do.  Not that I don't love home made stuffing, or make it with a larger bird.  Just that, when there is barely room for two pieces of bread inside the little bird, well...

So - Not sure if I really could call this a recipe, but, here goes:

Whole chicken
small onion
seasonings to taste
butter.

Rinse the bird, make sure there are no "extras" inside (packet of gizzards, etc.)  Take a small onion, cut top and root ends off, peel off dry skins.  Score the onion on the two cut ends.  Sprinkle with oregano, sage, and/or poultry seasoning as desired.  Place in the cavity of the chicken.  Place bird in roasting pan, breast up.  Melt a small amount of butter (around 1/4 cup) and drizzle over breast, then legs of bird.  OR, you may dot the breast and legs with unmelted butter if you prefer.  Season the skin of the bird if you wish - using pepper and/or whatever herbs and spices appeal to you.  The one thing I avoid using is salt.  Not because I am not eating salt - I use it at the table - but because I've learned over the years that salt will dry out your meat if you use it to season while cooking.

I will now add, if I have it, about a half cup of chicken broth.  If not, I will use about a quarter cup of water. Cover, and roast in a 350 oven until done - the timing will depend on the size of the chicken - the ones I do usually take about 2 hours.  Sometimes, I find that I need to remove the cover about 15 minutes to half an hour before the chicken is expected to be done to crisp up the skin - but that is very rare.

Toward the end of the cooking time, peel and boil potatoes.  Cook side vegetable (either fresh or frozen or whatever you desire).  When the chicken is done, remove from oven, turn off the oven,  take the bird out of the roasting pan, and place on a serving dish/plate/cookie sheet/whatever, and return to the oven to keep warm.  Now, add some liquid (water or more broth) to the roasting pan, place on the stove top, and bring to a boil.  Mix a small amount of flour with some cold water until smooth and "pourable".  Pour into the hot liquid in the pan, stirring while adding.  Continue stirring until thickened.  Reduce heat, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Mash the potatoes, drain the vegetables, and serve!

OK, not a great "recipe" because some of the stuff isn't listed out or measured out, but this is one of those things that I've been making for so long, that I just don't measure anymore!! And the seasoning - as much done based on what I have in the cupboard or ran out of as to suit the mood I'm in - sometimes I might make it with a Mexican flare, adding some spiciness, other times I go with a more Italian based herb palette. Just depends on my mood...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

1/5/13 Boring meals in a rut?

Ok, I'm not really in a rut - not yet, anyway.  But, we've been having boring meals for a bit.  I know, I shared a couple recipes, and they may seem not so boring to some.  But, last night was "cook your own" pork chops for supper.  A few things, like pork chops and steaks, we do cook our own.  It is much easier than trying to get two servings cooked to perfection, when the two people like their meat cooked to different levels of doneness.  Makes me respect restaurant cooks/chefs who are able to prepare two customers' meals so they can be served together... and boggles the mind for the larger parties....

Anyway - we had pork chops last night, he made fries with his, I zapped a potato in the microwave.  Tonight - I don't know what to make.  I know what I wanted to make - gumbo - but I need a bit more time than I've had lately.  Had our grandson staying over for a few days, and then today had to finish (finally!) repairing a plumbing issue with my kitchen sink.  So, my kitchen is in a bit of an uproar state, more so than usual, so by the time I finish clearing off enough space to make dinner (under sink cupboard had to be emptied and cleaned, of course, and not restocked too much until repairs could be completed) there just isn't the time for the fiddly bits of doing a new recipe.

Which means, here I am, blogging instead of figuring out what to make for supper, and it is nearly supper time.  *sigh*.  Of course, there is nothing thawed, either... and it wasn't that long ago that I did macaroni and cheese.  Nor is it that long since the breakfast for dinner eggs and bacon we sometimes do.  I guess... I'll just have to do some fast thinking!!

Hopefully, I'll manage to come up with something soon.  I'll let you know tomorrow!

Friday, January 4, 2013

1/4/13 No recipe today, toy story instead.

Last night we did a simple meal - hot dogs and sauerkraut.  Back when my grandson (GS) was staying with us in the summer, we'd been told one of his favourite foods was hot dogs.  Mine, too... So, we talked about maybe having a hot dog eating contest... He only ate one that day.  So, this time, he asked me about the contest again.  He told me that this time, he was more ready for it, and it was on!  I ate three, and would have eaten a fourth... he jammed out after two.

I consider my kitchen appliances and gadgets to be toys.  I love playing with new things.  Little manual hand held gadgets, small appliances, interesting cookware...   I once said that I didn't want or need a bread maker, because I was quite capable of making bread myself.  Well, one year, I was talking with a friend who enjoys cooking as much as I do, and she told me just how useful her bread maker was.  She used it for the "hard" or time-consuming part - the mixing and rising and kneading.  But, she always finished it off herself in the oven.  So, that year, I got one for Christmas.  I do love using it. I did, when I got it, try doing the bread the whole way in the machine.  But, it doesn't always turn out uniform, and even if it does kind of, it is not a "normal" bread shape.

Another appliance that I thought I wouldn't want was a stand mixer.  Well, just over three years ago, I ended up buying one on sale.  When I realized it not only did mixing, but had attachments (it is a Kitchen Aid) that did all sorts of other things - well... I'm in love with it!!  I have the pasta extruder, the grater attachment, the meat grinder, and I bought the sausage stuffer ends.  It is a toss-up which I've used more - the mixer or the attachments!!

Both of these appliances do have one major drawback - much as I love them, they cannot live in my kitchen :(  I just don't have any counter space for them to take up permanent residency, so they live in the livingroom, and I bring them in for visits when I want to use them.  *sigh* To have a real kitchen!!  I suspect, that this kitchen was designed for people who order in, dine out, or do take out/delivery for the majority of their meals, not for a person who loves to cook and bake and play with toys!!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

1/3/13 Last night supper and cooking habits

My cooking habit is, well, make everything from scratch.  At least, when ever possible.  Since I've developed some sort of allergy or at least sensitivity to some foods and food additives, this is even more important to me.

However, there are some things that I can get away with eating at restaurants, or pre-packaged, either because I don't consume them often or because I'm willing, sometimes, to suffer a little for the end result.

Last night was one of those meals I can do, that looks and sounds home made, but uses so many pre-made ingredients, that I feel guilty saying it is home made.  Well, I guess, technically, it is "home made" because I did make it, but it definitely is NOT from scratch.  It could be, but sometimes, I don't mind taking the short cut!

So, here's my recipe for "Cheater Home Made Burritos".

2 packages flour tortillas (the ones I use have ten in each; the first time I made these, I used 12 tortillas, last night I got 14 - the leftovers can be frozen)
2 tins refried beans (last time, I used plain, this time one plain, one with green chilies for the extra "zip")
 2 cups freeze dried taco TVP**, reconstituted per instructions (last time I used 1 cup, and the filling was quite "beany" - I wanted a bit more meat this time - probably why I got two more burritos!)
grated mozzerella to taste

Method:  I put the refried beans in a pot, warmed them up, then added the meat.  Placed two large soup-type spoonfuls of filling on a tortilla, sprinkled with grated cheese (probably put about 2-3 tablespoons each, I guess) then rolled up.  (there are lots of tutorials online for rolling technique) I placed several on a cookie sheet, pop them in a 350F oven for 15 - 30 minutes* to heat everything through and melt the cheese.  Serve with salsa, and a salad if you wish (I forgot to get salad stuff, so we just had burritos)

*I keep leaving them a bit long, and the ends get a bit crispy.  The dogs don't mind too much.  The leftovers (I only cook enough for the two of us, or last night three - our grandson is visiting) get sealed in plastic sandwich bags and popped into the freezer.  Great for work lunches, or a quick snack - pop in the microwave and heat as desired (usually about 2 minutes on high works for us)

**Sometime last summer, I started noticing various bloggers talking about freeze dried foods, including ground beef TVP or taco flavoured TVP - the TVP stands for Textured Vegetable Protien, a vegan or vegetarian selection.  Recently, I've learned that this product is available for purchase through home party sales here in Winnipeg.  (I plan to host a party hopefully in the first week of February - stay tuned if you're interested).  Even though I still enjoy eating meat, I thought I'd give this taco TVP a try for recipes and convenience.  I love it.  Along with a few other items... But, I'll leave the blogging about that for later.  I guess, just like anything else, if you don't have or don't want to use the TVP, you could use real ground meat, seasoned or not, in the burritos.  Along with maybe corn - I might try adding corn next time. Or chicken. Or.... whatever you wish to put inside!!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

1/2/13 random thought and last night's supper

I am trying to remember just how many years ago I stopped drinking coffee...

I never liked the taste of coffee.  I started drinking it because "that is what people do".  Over the years, I would switch it up - instead of coffee in the morning, I'd have tea. But I'd still drink the odd cup now and again.  Finally, one day, I *think* around five or six years ago, it occurred to me, that I was being silly - drinking coffee that I didn't even like "just because it is what people do".  So, I stopped.

Now, interestingly, I do like espresso.  So, I am indulging in that now and again...

I'm still deciding where the flavoured coffees fit in - haven't had any, but didn't mind the odd one of those in the past...

Last night - DH (Dear Husband) suggested, or is it requested? spaghetti and meatballs.

So, that is what I made.  Mixed up the ground pork, pulled out the pasta maker.  It was good :)  No picutes, though.  Maybe another time...    

Recipe:  (sorry, I'm not sure what to do if you don't have a pasta maker - I suppose, you *could* roll out the dough with a rolling pin, and cut with a knife...)
Pasta -
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil (I use olive)
1 tbsp warm water
3 eggs.

Put dry ingredients into bowl, make well.  Add oil, water, and eggs into the well.  Mix with a fork, then with hands, until forms a ball.  Cover, let rest ten minutes.  Knead for about ten minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky. (sprinkle with flour as needed).  Let rest 30 minutes.  Cut into 8 pieces, roll each out in pasta maker to desired thickness (Mine goes 1-widest to 9, I go to 7).  Cut with cutting rollers (I use the wider linguine one).  Cook in boiling water till done.

Meatballs:
1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds ground pork.*
1 egg
1/2 to 1 cup rolled oats
seasoning to taste - I used 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine then pressed through garlic press, fresh ground pepper, 1 packet dry onion soup mix, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce this time.  It varies.

Mix all ingredients well.  I only used about half of this mix for supper.  Break off small pieces of meat mixture, roll into uniform meatballs.  Place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for 30 to 45 minutes, until done. (time will depend on your oven and desired level of doneness, plus number and size of meatballs.)

While pasta is cooking, heat 1 can Hunts Original Thick N Quick sauce in pot over medium high.  When it starts to boil, add cooked meatballs. (if meatballs have cooled, then continue heating sauce with meatballs to warm them up again) Stir together and serve.

*- I buy my ground pork from Superstore, and it comes in this sized package - roughly one and a half to two pounds, or around 780 grams give or take.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

1/1/13 Food report :)

Well, it is the start of another year.  As I get older, I tend to not make such a big deal out of such things - today is Tuesday.  That is more meaningful to me than "today is the start of a new year".  I mean, really, that is a lot to hang on one poor little day!!  And what makes this first of the month any  more special than any other first day of a month?  I mean, really - it is the first day of the rest of my life.  That I can relate to!!

Anyway - I will be trying to keep posting to this blog - and some of the posts might be rather mundane.  Food related, but mundane.  For instance, today - I haven't really been cooking much special lately, (meaning over the last few weeks) and prior to that, I made a few interesting dishes, but the days I made them are sketchy in my memory (what day did we have pasta last? when did I make jambalaya again?) but they are all the kinds of things that will be repeated again in the future, so I'll be able to do a better report on them later.

Eating out - not something we can truly afford to do often.  But now and again, I do manage to get out for lunch with one of my friends.  So, I will report on those adventures as they happen. And we *do* go for supper a few times a year...

Today - nothing special planned.  I would have, but realized I'd forgotten one ingredient for something I wanted to make.  Was going to run to the store yesterday to buy it, but as my fellow 'Peggers know, it was extremely cold - so I didn't want to fight both weather and last-minute shoppers for a block of cheese.  Today is much nicer, but of course the stores are closed!!!  So, tomorrow...

I am thawing some ground pork - but I haven't completely decided what I'm going to cook it up into just yet.  Will report back tomorrow!