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Monday Musings: 02.25.2014 Edition February 24, 2014

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Freezer Meals, Home, Information, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff, Review.
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Boy, there for a minute, we almost started thinking about spring!  The weather this weekend has been, well, the word that comes to mind is temperate.  Not too cold – we actually came close to 50 at one point! – and sunny, to boot!

Although we didn’t need much (which is just as well, since the selection is pretty slim this time of year), it was nice to walk around at the Public Market without freezing for a change!

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Okay, I would like to pause for a moment and congratulate myself.

For the past few years, I’ve been carrying FOUR cell phones on my account – mine and Peeps, sure, but also The Boy‘s and Peeps’s mom’s, as well.

Let me just say – that kind of thing starts to add up!    Even when three of the four of us were just using basic phones – none of that fancy smart-phone stuff.

So now. . . the other two have transferred their phones to their OWN accounts, and Peeps and I?  Well, we closed our account and went with a new(ish), no-contract carrier called Republic Wireless.

Basically, we bought the phones outright ($300 each (ouch) BUT that’s what credit cards are for), and from here on out, our service is $25 a month each, plus tax, for unlimited talk, text, AND data.  No contracts, no extra charges, no nothing.

Plus?  I’ve got the Internet in my pocket, guys!

The service has been great, we love the phones (Motorola’s Moto X), and we’ve both been extremely happy.  And it’s significantly cheaper than the basic cell service with the other company.  Where’s the bad?

If you want to check it out for yourself, click on the Republic logo above –  either for more information or even to sign up yourself.  In addition, just until the end of the month, if you do use the referral link above, Republic is offering a $19 credit on new plans.

*  Unsolicited opinions here.  The only renumeration I may (or may not) receive would be a $19 credit to me, too, if anyone signs up using that link, which they’ve offered to all their customers, so . . .

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.   I’ve got another busy week ahead at work – it’s getting to be that time of the year, I guess!   It’s still a little weird with Peeps frequently getting home later than I do, but, on the bright side, we’re not getting up before 4AM !

Monday – We have some veal shanks in the freezer, which will cook reasonably quickly in the pressure cooker!  Several years ago, I found this recipe for ossobuco bianco, and, although we’ve only made it a few times, we love it.  I may also try risotto in the rice cooker – I think that’ll be a perfect complement.

Tuesday – I’m kind of embarrassed about this, but, ever since the Ukraine thing has been in the news last week, I’ve had Chicken Kiev on my mind.  (I’m pretty sure the Ukrainian rebels would probably be less than impressed that FOOD is what I think of when their government is overthrown, but what can I say?  At least it’s lovely, garlicky-buttery chicken!)  Maybe with some barley and broccoli.

Wednesday –  I kept stumbling across two partial bags of frozen corn in the freezer – it was driving me nuts!  So . . . you know what you do with two partial bags of corn?  You make corn chowder.  I used the last of the chicken from last week’s roast chicken, along with some of last summers corn stock, and BOY is this gonna be good!

Thursday –  My most recent dog food purchase has  reminded me (again!) how important it is to keep the freezer under control – what goes in MUST come out!  As it happens, Peeps opened the freezer door the other day, and a container of pork sugo fell out.  Ha – saute the broccoli rabe we picked up at the market, and we’ve got dinner!

Friday – Friday night is always pizza night for us – the crust sits in the fridge and ferments all week, and we’ve got plenty of homemade sauce, salami, ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, basically whatever we’re in the mood for.  And, of course, Jar’s 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: 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: 01.06.2013 Edition January 6, 2014

Posted by Toy Lady in Big Lug, Cooking, Home, meal plan monday, Musings.
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Wow, has it been a week, or what?

Oh, by the way, happy New Year!  Sorry about that, but, well, what a week!

We, uh, got a bit of snow in these parts – I declared last Friday to be a snow day – I don’t know if my office was open or not, but I didn’t go in!  When the snow is in double digits (20+ inches) and the temperature is single digits (5), well, I’m not going anywhere.

Though I did take pity on The Jar and shovel a path across the deck for him.  The poor thing NEEDED to go out – and it was better than walking him around the block!

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I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve misplaced my camera.

I have no idea where it is – I mean, it’s not like this house is THAT big, that things can just get LOST, but, well, there you have it.  I’ve been feeling a little under the weather this weekend, and you know how, when you’re sick, your brain doesn’t work right?

Yeah, I’m pretty sure I stuck the camera somewhere “safe” while I was in that foggy state.  Hopefully it’ll turn up soon.  Until then, I guess I’ll be taking pictures with the cell phone.

Cool, huh?

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Jar is obviously undecided as to what he wants to do when it snows.

On the one hand, he’s DYING to go outside.  Right. This.  Minute.

Then he gets out there, dashes across the deck, down the steps, and . . . ends up plowing through snow up to his chest.

At which point he MUST come back inside.  Right. This.  Minute.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t play out several times a day.

Like what, the snow situation is going to change in the space of a couple of hours?

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Did I mention I haven’t been feeling so hot?  There’s this nasty bug going around, and it finally caught up with me – folks, please, if you’re sick, STAY HOME!  Nobody wants your germs!

So yeah, the past few days have been pretty miserable.

However, on the bright side, Peeps took the dog for his morning walk and let me sleep in on Saturday morning until nearly NINE O’CLOCK.  Do you KNOW when the last time I slept that late was?   Me neither.  Just wow.

On top of that, he very kindly went out and got me a pint of hot-and-sour soup for dinner, too – as far as I’m concerned, there is very little in this world better for a cold than good hot-and-sour soup.

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Speaking of my darling husband.  After six months of unemployment, a couple of weeks of background checks and a couple of physicals, he’s landed a job with an armored car company.

I’m not sure how much I’m allowed to say about it – they’ve got rules about that sort of thing, I guess – so basically, he wears a uniform, goes to work, carries his pistol, and brings cash to the places that need it.

So far, he doesn’t hate it, so I guess that’s a good sign, right?

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Now for the continuing saga of the car situation.

You’ll recall that last week, my mechanic boycotted my Volvo – yeah, I know, nothing says I have to listen to him, but Jim’s been looking out for me and taking care of my cars almost since I moved to Rochester – I trust him as much as I trust my father when it comes to automotive things.

So. . . when I called my father and told him about the situation, he said that, well, he still had my mother’s Caravan which she no longer drives and which he’d like to get out of his driveway – he’d bought it new, and it has fairly low mileage, and I could buy it for, as it happens, almost exactly what I have in my “car repair fund” – which, to be honest, is kind of a steal.

So. . . more later about the new Mutt Mobile.

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  I’m still not feeling 100 percent, so, while the last thing I want to think about is meals for the rest of the week, I know how much easier it will be later if I’ve taken the 10 minutes to plan now!

Monday – After a couple of weeks of holiday fare, it’s about time we lighten up a bit!  Our local supermarket has Alaskan cod on special this week, so we picked up some lima beans and will bake them together like we did a while back with the tilapia – I’m already looking forward to it!

Tuesday – When I made the cannoli cheesecake for Christmas, I needed to buy a tub of ricotta, of which I only used half.  It only makes sense to use the other half in lemon-ricotta pancakes, maybe even along with some homemade bacon.  Who doesn’t love pancakes for supper?

Wednesday – We’re still getting used to the whole Peeps getting home after I do thing, so we’re going to try cooking a chicken in the slow cooker – I don’t think I’ve ever really done that before.  I’m basically going to try this rotisserie-style version.  I may even add some potatoes, just to see how that works.

Thursday – We spent some time this weekend (when we weren’t looking for the camera!) making a big old pot of pork sugo – the sauce is done, so we just need to cook some pasta, stir it all together, and cheese it, baby!  Since this recipe makes a TON, there will be plenty to share with The Boy and his young lady (they love this stuff too!) plus probably another dinner next week.

Friday – And back to Friday night pizza night – I’ve been very much enjoying the roasted eggplant sauce I made at the end of the summer – and Peeps has been enjoying the roasted tomato sauce.  We froze it in muffin cups, then popped the sauce out of the cups into freezer bags.  Each portion is the perfect size for an individual pizza – it’s perfect for us!

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: 12.02.2013 Edition December 2, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff.
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Wow, the public market was quiet this weekend!  I’m not surprised, though – not really.  After all, it was Thanksgiving weekend, and not only were several of the vendors on vacation, many customers were also probably either out of town themselves, or entertaining a houseful of family.

And it looks like we’re now firmly in “winter produce” mode – onions, potatoes, broccoli – the hardier veggies.  It’s all good, though!

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I trust our readers enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving – we drove to my parents’ house and spent the day with all of my family – two brothers, one sister, seven nieces and nephews, and, of course, the three dogs (our one and my parents’s two).

Along with a sweet potato casserole and lots and lots of rolls (we always bring too many!), we also baked a trio of pies – apple, grape and peach.  I’m pleased to report that they all came out pretty darned good, if I do say so myself!

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When we were at the market Saturday, Peeps pointed out, at the meat market’s stall, one of Jar’s new favorite treats – chicken feet!

Pretty creepy, huh?

However, they’re chock full of doggy goodness –  besides protein, cartilage  and bones, they’re loaded with collagen and chondroitin – both of which are exactly what the Jar, with his poor, sad joints, needs.

Plus it just cracks me up to “toss him the bird.”  What can I say? – I’m easily amused!

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We decided, since we had a bit of down time this weekend, to try making caramels – we both love them, and neither of us had ever actually made them before.

Well, it turns out they’re not difficult at all – though the whole boiling sugar then adding liquid part felt a little harrowing!

However, all in all, I might even say they’re almost too easy. That stuff is addicting!

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We picked out our holiday wreath to hang on the front porch this weekend, too – isn’t it lovely?

We always buy them from this nice couple who makes them themselves, and they really do know their trees.  This year, we went with mixed greens, including a bit of holly, and there are a few berries in there, too, along the colorful balls.

Even just driving home, it made the car smell like Christmas!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  Unlike most of the rest of the country (it seems!) we don’t have piles of Thanksgiving leftovers to worry about – while I’ll admit that I’ll miss leftover turkey sandwiches (both hot and cold!), it’s probably for the best! Two people (and one dog) can eat but so much turkey, right?  Besides, we did pick up a couple of birds on sale to divide up and roast later on, so all is not lost!

Monday – We’ve got some of last week’s pork roast left – we’ll roast some sweet potatoes and probably some pan-roasted broccoli to go with it.

Tuesday – I saw this recipe for baked fish with almonds, lemon, and bread crumbs and it looked GOOD!  It should go nicely with green beans and maybe rice.

Wednesday – We may not have turkey leftovers, but we’re going to have roast chicken!  I stumbled on this ginger roast chicken recipe that just sounded . . . intriguing.   I listen to the Splendid Table podcast every week – they have some of the most interesting recipes!

Thursday – Now that Thanksgiving’s done, we’re back to Minimal Effort Thursday!  This week, we’ve made a quick corn chowder that will just need reheating – a couple of slices of bacon, browned, then removed from the pan and set aside, then an onion and a clove of garlic sauteed in the rendered bacon fat.  Add about a cup of frozen corn, half a cup of corn stock (or vegetable or chicken stock) and enough cream (or half and half or milk) to cover, plus maybe a tablespoon of chili powder, pinch of salt, and bring to a simmer, then puree.  Add a couple of sweet potatoes and a regular potato (I used Yukon gold), diced, and another 3-1/2 cups of stock (the rest of the quart), and simmer until the potatoes are cooked.   Add another 2 or 3 cups of corn, return the bacon, and bring back to a simmer, check for seasoning, and you’re done.

Friday – And again with pizza night – we’ll enjoy our pizza in front of the TV, and Jar will enjoy his Kong – it’s a nice, quiet end to the work week!

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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Pizza night revisited September 27, 2013

Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Home, Homemade, random stuff.
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About two months ago, Toys and I had to go to pick up a few things at Niblack Foods (formerly known as Tadco).  We love shopping there, they have all kinds of neat stuff that we either can’t find easily or just want to play around with.

While we were browsing, we got into a conversation with a lady who works there.  She found it very amusing that we make so many things ourselves.  We had a very nice chat.

A few minutes later, after we had continued our shopping, she came up to us and asked if we make our own pasta.  We told her that we didn’t, dried pasta is just fine for most of our needs.  She then asked if we ever make pizza.  I have to admit that I did a bit of bragging about my pizza dough.

The reason she asked these questions, was that she had a bag of flour that had gotten torn while she was stocking shelves and she wanted to know if we would like to buy it.  At a discount.  We love stuff at a discount.  And it was something that neither of us had ever played with before.  Italian 00 flour.

Now, I had never heard of 00 flour until a couple years ago when my boss at the Ravioli Shop mentioned it once in passing.  It’s a much finer grind than basic all purpose flour.  I can’t seem to find out for sure if it has a higher protein content or not, it depends on who you ask.  It’s supposed to be the bomb for breads and pasta.  And pizza dough.

So, we bought the damaged bag of flour.  It was a 2.2 pound bag (one kilogram).  A few days later, I tried it in pizza dough.

I substituted half of the all purpose flour needed with the 00 flour.  I didn’t want to use up most of the bag at one go.  I still wanted to try some in bread, too.

The dough felt entirely different.  Much lighter and tighter grained.  It was nicer to work with.  Huh.  So, I finished the dough, and got it in the fridge and promptly forgot about it until pizza night.

Friday night rolled around and it I noticed that the dough stretched beautifully.    I had to be much more careful about putting holes in it.

Once I was done, and the pizzas had a chance to rest, it was time to taste.  And it was INCREDIBLE!  The taste was everything pizza should be.  Light and crisp with a nice soft chew.

The next morning, my wife and I looked online for what kind of deal we could get for 00 flour.  And were not terribly happy.  We could get big bags of the stuff without a problem, and for a price that didn’t hurt too much.  Until you factored in shipping.  Shipping a fifty pound bag of flour hurts.  A lot.

Plus, there’s also the problem of what to do with an open fifty pound bag of flour.

So, about a week later, I went back to Niblack to see if I could get a deal there.  They had ten packs of the one kilo bags that they would give me ten percent off.  That brought the price down to something reasonable.  And I’d still be spending money locally, which is something we try to do whenever we can.  Plus, they’re not far if we need more.

So, we now have ten different kind of flour in the house.  Ten.  Yikes.  But I’m very glad we found out about 00 flour.  We now have a license to bake.