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Monday Musings: 05.05.2014 Edition May 5, 2014

Posted by Toy Lady in Food, Giveaway, meal plan monday, mirth & woe, Musings, random stuff.
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I trust everyone out there in Computer Land enjoyed a nice weekend!  This was a market week for us, and boy, was it nice to just get out and do a little outside shopping!  It’s still a little early in the season for anything really “fresh” – with the exception of ramps (yay!) and, of course, eggs, but we’re still happy to enjoy some of the last of the fall’s winter crops – before long, the fingerling potatoes will be making way for new potatoes, and the broccoli will yield  to asparagus and peas.

I’ve got to admit – I’ll be mighty glad to see some new onions!  It’s so hard to buy onions right now – anything that’s local has been stored all winter and wants to either sprout or rot – or both!

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You know, the crazy thing about Rochester is that the sun comes out, and people just start going nuts!  You would not BELIEVE the number of vendors at the market with plants this week!  I mean, it’s great to see, but really, nobody really believes they can put tomatoes in yet, do they?

Sure, you can bring them home and put them in a sunny window, but . . . well, I guess it’s a reminder that YES SPRING IS REALLY COMING!

And I’ll admit – I succumbed to the siren song of a couple of fresh rosemary plants.  And since there was a discount when I bought four plants, well, I was thinking about replacing some sage and some thyme this year anyway. . .

Spring truly is here!

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Speaking of spring . . . remember a couple of weeks ago (the last time we had a sunny weekend) when I planted peas?

That’s right, they’re UP and even growing!  How awesome is that?  (I need to get a fence up for them, though – soon!)  Almost before we know it, we’ll be planning stir-fry with my very own snow peas for dinner!

Oh, and just beyond the snow peas?  That’s my garlic – how awesome is THAT?  I planted extra last fall with the intention of pulling some very young as “green garlic” – I’m not sure exactly when to pull it, so I guess I’ll take my cue from the public market – when I see it there, I’ll come home and pull a bulb or two and see what I get.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  We’re just starting to see some warmer temperatures here, though we’ve still got a bit of off-and-on rain going on.  So we work around it, right?  This week, our menu is sort of looking like a world tour. . .

Monday –  Given that it’s Cinco de Mayo, we couldn’t miss a ready-made opportunity to enjoy some tacos!  I’ll be the first to admit – I don’t think we’ll ever go back the ground-beef-and-taco-mix tacos again.  Carnitas are just so good – and easy too!

Tuesday – Two things happened this weekend – we made some Italian sausage, and I picked up a nice bunch of rapini at the public market.  Put those things together, and, well, our world tour continue in Southern Italy.  Initially I’d planned to do the basic pasta, sausage and broccoli rabe dish that we definitely like.  Then I said to myself, “self, why not mix it up a little?” and I think maybe we’ll try something like this rapini and polenta dish.

Wednesday – And off we head to Morocco – sort of.  We’re finally going to see a sunny, not-cold evening, which means we’re firing up the grill!  I’ve got some chicken marinating with oregano, cinnamon and paprika – I think we’ll serve some cousous on the side, along with a veggie of some sort – probably broccoli.

Thursday – Minimal Effort Thursday will bring us to India – I’ve been intrigued by this spicy chick pea and sour tomato curry since I first saw the recipe!  This qualifies for our Minimal Effort Thursday – I made the curry ahead of time, and the “simmering” step will coincide with Thursday’s “reheating” – how clever is that?  I hope we like it – we always have everything on hand for it – except tamarind concentrate.  Does anyone know WHERE one would find tamarind concentrate?  I finally ended up ordering it from Amazon, so I’ve got it now, but still.  I’m also not completely sold on the pasta idea – do they actually use pasta in India?

Friday – And so Friday brings us back to Italy (or New Jersey, anyway) for pizza night!  I mentioned above that we made some Italian sausage over the weekend – guess what’s topping our pies this week?  That’s right – homemade sausage!

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 01.27 2014 Edition January 27, 2014

Posted by Toy Lady in Food, Home, meal plan monday, Musings.
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Boy oh boy, this weekend’s trip to the public market was . . . frosty!  We really didn’t need much – mostly, we go because it’s our habit, and it’s good to get ourselves – and Peeps’s mom – out of the house.

That, and we do want to show our support for the vendors who are also out in the cold.

Without sounding whiny, I’d like to comment that this has so far been one of the coldest winters I can remember. Single digit temperatures, day after day – why, it’s ridiculous!  It’s just a good thing spring is only 3 months away!

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We did splurge a bit and pick up a package of pork chops this week – they’re HUGE!  Two pork chops were three and a half pounds!

Needless to say, one chop will be plenty for the two of us to share.  Which will leave the second one to enjoy another time!

The farmer said that this was the meat from their “breeding sow” – the chops are huge, and they’re much fattier than anything we’ll see in the supermarket.  And I mean “fatty” in a good way here – modern pork is so lean, you may as well be eating boneless chicken breast!

I remember, as a teenager, when my parents butchered our sow – it was the same thing – huge, nicely marbled, juicy chops.

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So . . . we’ve gotten a bit of snow.  Again.

I don’t really mind the snow so much, at least not as long as the sidewalk plows have been out.   It’s the trudging through the unbroken snow that wears a body out, you know?

Poor Jarly, though.  I mean, he’s out there walking in his bare feet (and yes, I know I can get him boots for his feet, and no, I’m not going to) – if the cold is bothering him (I can tell because he won’t put all his feet down at the same time!), we cut our walk short and come inside.  Then I warm Jar up with a nice brisk toweling-off, including his cold, wet feet.

He loves that.

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With Peeps leaving for work around the same time I do in the mornings now, we’ve been able to enjoy breakfast together fairly regularly, which is nice.

I’ve taken to making a double batch of oatmeal now and then – how handy is it that steel-cut oats in the rice cooker take about an hour – just long enough to walk the dog?  We each have a serving, then I stash the rest in the fridge for an even quicker breakfast later in the week.

This morning, I reheated some of the leftover oatmeal with some leftover short ribs and sauce and added a sprinkling of chopped scallions.   How awesome was THAT after a cold, snowy morning walk?  

Yeah, it was pretty awesome!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  We’re looking forward to another chilly week here, but, after all, it is January in the Northeast, isn’t it?   It’s winter, so we enjoy winter food.

Monday –  I did pick up a bunch of broccoli raab at the market, which will go nicely with some pasta and the Italian sausage Peeps and I made last weekend – we love this classic dish!

Tuesday – Peeps has been dying to make Tex-Mex cheese enchiladas since we received the newest issue of Cook’s Country magazine – it’s cheese and it’s Mexican and it’s Cook’s Illustrated – I’m totally on board with it!

Wednesday – My parents just got back from Florida, after having celebrated their 50th anniversary.  We did send them a gift, but we also wanted to take them out for dinner.  Rooney’s is running an anniversary special, which kind of strikes me as serendipitous, don’t you think?

Thursday – We spent the better part of Sunday with sauce simmering on the stove – which will make it perfect for Minimal Effort Thursday!  What?  Pasta twice in one week?  I don’t remember the last time we did that!

Friday – And yay, it’s pizza night!  Lest we forget about it, I’m reminding myself that there’s some prosciutto left in the fridge which, I think, will be just lovely on a pizza.  In the alternative, we’ve also got some Italian sausage which will be just as yummy.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 01 13 2014 Edition January 13, 2014

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Food, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff.
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We had a decent trip to the Public Market this weekend – citrus is in season, which means my new favorite (new in the past few years, anyway) orange – the Minneola – is in season!

And I realized that we haven’t had beets in quite a while!  Fortunately, the lady from whom we normally buy potatoes also had some nice-looking beets, and, since we didn’t really need potatoes this week, well, why not?

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One of the local butchers, Joe’s Meat Market, has a shop inside the Public Market.  These are the guys Peeps buys the pork belly from for bacon – we love these guys!  I found out, a few month ago, that they also have, by request, what they call their Kennel Grind for dogs.  While it’s certainly not something I’d ever want to eat (ever!), our Jarly absolutely goes nuts for it!

About once a month, I call their store and place my order for 10 pounds, then, when I get to the market, they pull a bag with my name out of the back (the “back,” in this case, being the guy’s truck!).

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You may notice that we’ve got photos back – I found the camera.

Where, you ask?

Well, see, it’s like this.

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Back in the corner of my basement is the area where, I guess, in the olden days they used to pipe oil into the furnace, and several years ago, we put wine racks back in that dark, cool corner.   So the other evening, I went down to the wine cellar to get a bottle of wine, and there, way back in the corner, showing very decided signs of having been batted down the stairs and across the basement, was my CAMERA.

I know I didn’t leave it there, and I’m certain  Peeps didn’t.  I can be pretty sure Jar didn’t either, since (a) he’s not allowed in the basement, and (b) he doesn’t fit through the kitty door anyway.  I don’t know how she did it, or how she got it down the stairs without breaking it, but, well, there it was.

It’s just a good thing she deleted her kitty selfies, because . . . I just don’t want to know.

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Remember all that snow we had last week?

Gone.  Almost all of it.  Which is good, I guess.

However, once the snow started melting, we had a bit of a cold snap  and by “cold snap” I mean, I walked the dog in below-zero temperatures, when that melted snow had suddenly frozen.

I did not go to work that day.  Heck no.

I stayed home and tried out the donut pan Peeps gave me for Christmas instead.

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Jarly is starting to settle into his new ride – there’s certainly plenty of room for him in the back of the van!

Plus, he can stand up without rubbing on the ceiling, which is definitely a good thing – it’s harder than you’d think to vacuum dog hair from the headliner of a car!

I wonder, though, if we should put the crate back there – he’s never been crated, so he’ll probably hate it.  But I suspect, if, heaven forbid, we were in an accident, he’d hate bouncing around the back of the van even more.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  I guess we can pretty much tell what the season is by how we eat, can’t we?  It’s just been so chilly lately (I guess I can safely say -6° is chilly, right?) that we just crave those warming soups and stews.  And although it’s not supposed to be quite as cold this week, well, now I’m in the mood for winter food!

Monday – First up is grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.  I came across a recipe for roasted tomato soup that includes roasted cauliflower and potatoes – I used this recipe right here, though I’ll warn you up front – Thug Kitchen is full of Potty Mouth.  But the recipe looks good.

Tuesday – We roasted our chicken in the crockpot last week, and,while it tasted great, the white meat was a little dry.  Okay, a LOT dry.  So about the only thing I can think of to redeem dry meat is to smother it in gravy of some sort – so I’m going to make a quick batch of chicken and biscuits (or noodles or something) – basically chicken and gravy,ladled over something nicely starchy.

Wednesday – I picked up some escarole at the market and made a quick batch of pressure cooker chicken stock (no point in wasting that chicken rack – and there’s no room in the freezer for it).   Peeps whipped up some Italian sausage, and we are going to enjoy the heck out of some beans and greens, with delightful sausage.

Thursday – The last time Peeps roasted a pork shoulder, we divvied it up and put it in the freezer in meal-sized packages.  In the interest of rotating stuff in and out of the freezer, the time has come to enjoy some of that lovely roasted pork, along with some of the veggie mash that we stashed specifically for this purpose.

Friday – This week on  pizza night, I think we’ll both be enjoying some roasted Italian sausage on our pies.  Jar, in the meantime, will enjoy his Kong.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 12.30.2013 Edition December 30, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Food, meal plan monday, Musings.
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Well, it’s been a long busy week around here – as I’m sure it has pretty much everywhere!

Our bi-weekly trip to the Public Market was fairly quiet – not as many people as usual, and I think a lot of the vendors were out enjoying the holiday season, as well.

No worries, though, we got the important stuff – a couple of dozen eggs, coffee, and a great deal on Tabasco!  Add in some cauliflower and a couple of blood oranges, and we’re all set for another couple of weeks!

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Although I took most of last week as vacation, there was an awful lot of holiday preparation to be done – wow, what a lot of work it is to prepare Christmas dinner for a dozen people (actually, 13)!

Speaking of  Christmas dinner, it went very well.  The food all turned out perfect (though the roasted Brussels sprouts were close to cold by the time the roast was sliced), and a good time – and a good meal – was had by all.

And can you believe that I managed to finish knitting something for every member of my family?  Socks, hats, mittens, scarves – everyone had something handmade under the tree from me.

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We had a bit of a scare, though, on the way home Christmas night.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, my car started acting funny, and the “check engine” light came on.  We made it home safely, and I was took it over to see my mechanic the very next day.

You will recall how thrilled I was when I bought the Volvo a few years ago – it’s such a great ride.  But alas, after only 4 years (and several thousand dollars in repairs) my mechanic’s official diagnosis is “customer advised to trade car in.”

So. . . I’ve spent the better part of the weekend car-shopping.

And I’ve learned a painful lesson – no more expensive European cars.  Besides the fact that they’re expensive to maintain, dog hair and slobber don’t do them any good, either.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  A while back, we declared one week a month to be a “no shopping week” – we eat completely from the freezer and pantry and save the grocery money.  (That’s how we financed prime rib for 13 for Christmas!)  So anyway, while we’d probably also be well-served by declaring a “no eating week” after the past week (seriously!), this week is it – we’re eating from the pantry this week.

Monday –  We caught America’s Test Kitchen this weekend and were reminded of one of our favorite pasta dishes – Spaghetti al Limone.  Since we have just enough heavy cream on hand (left over from making creme fraiche last week), well, how could we not?

Tuesday –  On New Year’s Eve, we always shovel a path to the grill (if necessary) and we grill a couple of steaks.  This year, Peeps claimed a hunk of the Christmas prime rib, so we’ll slice that in half and slap it on the grill like a rib-eye.  It’s already cooked (to medium-rare), so it’ll just be a quick matter of heating it through and getting some nice grill marks going, that’s all.  We’ve also got some leftover cheesy mashed potato casserole, and I think a nice tossed salad will finish the meal nicely.  Well, that and whatever champagne/sparkling wine we have downstairs, of course.

Wednesday – New Years Day, and we’ve got nothing too exciting planned – we pulled some chicken out of the freezer and realized that we hadn’t done our dijon chicken in quite a long time.  That will go very nicely with roasted Brussels sprouts (yes, I overbought for last week) and probably some rice.

Thursday –  Keeping it simple for Minimal Effort Thursday – we pulled some smoked pork out of the freezer, which will go with some mashed potatoes (leftovers if there are any, or can probably make some more) and something green – salad, steamed green beans, sauteed kale, something.

Friday – Life is so much easier when we have one night where dinner is carved in stone – and for us it’s pizza night.  I don’t have to think about it worry about it – maybe I’ll mix up my pizza topping now and then, but that’s about it.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 11.11.2013 Edition November 11, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Food, meal plan monday, Musings.
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Well, mission accomplished.

Last Friday evening, I met one of the meat suppliers (a very nice couple from Romulus, New York) (I can’t help thinking of them as The Romulans, though) and bought a 30-pound box of turkey wings and a 40-pound box of “chicken frames.”

Basically, that’s the bony part of the chicken that’s left after they cut the leg quarters, boneless breasts, and wings off.  Still plenty of meat, lots of bone, and necks.  Since he’s eating the bones and all, I’m very glad to have found a source domestic, antibiotic-free chicken parts.

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I guess I don’t need to tell you how happy Peeps was to have dug out his very heavy, very sharp meat cleaver!  We bought this several years ago, at a kitchen outlet store (that may or may not exist anymore – it was a LONG time ago, and out of town) – mainly because we didn’t have one.

We’ve almost never used it in all these years, UNTIL.

Until we suddenly had a need to start whacking up hunks of chicken, bones and all.

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I salvaged three volunteer butternut squashes from the garden last week – two were beautiful, and one was just not quite ripe.

We roasted about half of what I’d picked (guess who likes the roasted, not-quite-ripe bits?) and the other half, well some of that is going for dinner this weekend, and the rest went into a very nice, quick and easy soup, using a bunch of squash and the rest of the leeks that I keep forgetting about in the fridge.

Very simple:  Saute a bunch of sliced leeks until soft, season with a bit of salt and herbs (or herb salt).  Add the cubed squash, I don’t know, 4-6 cups? a small squash’s worth, anyway, and saute, stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Then pour in a pint of chicken stock or broth, and about a cup of half-and-half – just enough to just barely cover the squash.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low and partially cover pot until squash is tender, then puree the whole mess into soup.  If it’s too thick (which it was) add a splash of apple cider, maybe half a cup, then add a couple of tablespoons of cider vinegar to brighten.  You’re done.
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And in the meantime, if you’ve planned ahead, you can be snacking on roasted butternut squash seeds – yum.

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So do you remember last week’s nice, freshly defrosted, nearly empty freezer? Yeah, we divided up all that chicken into 2-pound containers, and that takes up a LOT of freezer space.

And underneath the pile of recycled yogurt containers (I knew they’d come in handy – eventually!) is 75 pounds of beef, in fifteen 5-pound packages.  That should be enough beef for the Jar for about 2 months, and the chicken should last a good month.  And, of course, we’ve got turkey wings in reserve, too.

I’d say I think I need a bigger freezer, but really, I just need to give over more of the one we have to the dog.

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Speaking of the dog.  I’m working very hard to understand what he’s saying sometimes.

Take this afternoon, for instance.  He seems to think that every time I go to the basement, I should be coming back with a bone in my hand, and honestly, he gets downright pesky about it sometimes.

So I brought this small bone up for him and sent him out to the back yard with it. Where he promptly went down the steps from the deck, dropped the bone, and started barking.  And he bark, bark, barked until the neighbors’ little dogs started barking, too, in that way that only little dogs do – yap yap yap yap yap yap!  And then Jar stopped barking, lay down, and started chomping on the bone.

Clearly, what was Jar saying was:  Hey, you guys!  I’ve got a bone!  You hear me?  Who’s got a bone?  I do!  That’s right!  Who’s got NO bone?  You do!  I’ve got a bone and you don’t!  Neener neener neener!

Yup.  Our dog is a jerk.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  Even though we’ve sorted through (and defrosted!) both freezers, we’re continuing to observe No Shopping Week (which is just what it sounds like – once a month, we skip our weekly trip to the supermarket, live on what’s in the freezer/pantry/cupboards (with the exception of milk if we need it), and stash the grocery money).  I think of it as working on mending our ways – our habit of over-buying, coupled with our loathing of waste, and added to a shift in our eating habits, well, it’s just gotten a little out of hand.  This is a good way to hold myself accountable.

Monday –  We ate about half the black bean soup last week, so we’ve got more black bean soup up this week.  That should finish off the batch – and if it doesn’t, well, I won’t feel so bad about tossing whatever’s left.

Tuesday – Surprisingly enough, there was also about half of last week’s braciole left over, too.  Rather than think of it “leftovers” though, I prefer to think of it as re-enjoyed.  It was really good, and it’s nice to be able to have it again.

Wednesday – Of course, just because we’ve got leftover soup on Monday, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fresh, new soup on Wednesday, does it?  Squash and leek soup – with fresh bread – it’s good for the soul.

Thursday – We defrosted a chicken last week, to roast this weekend, so we’ve got some leftover cooked chicken.  We’ve also got a chunk of ham in the freezer, so Peeps suggested putting them together for a Monte Cristo casserole.  Um, sure.

Friday – Now that we’re back to our normal routine, pizza night will continue as usual!  However, I’m on the lookout for Kong-stuffing ideas for The Jar.  Now that we’ve changed his diet, the kibble mix with Might Dog I’ve been using all along seems to be a littler harder on his delicate tummy.  Any thoughts?

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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