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I can hardly believe it myself! April 25, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cuisine at Home, random stuff, soupe du semaine, Work.
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Well hello there.

It is I.

Things seem to be starting to settle down around here, at least for the moment – which, honestly?  It’s just a good thing!  Those moments that I haven’t been too exhausted to think a coherent thought?  I’ve been Mrs. Cranky Pants.

When I get busy,  I don’t have time for a lot of fiddle-faddle, yet some days that seems to be all I get – a lot of fiddle-faddle.

Sometimes I just want to smack someone.  Who that someone may be varies from day to day, but there’s always someone around who needs a good SMACK lately.


There are those evenings when I’m too tired to care about anything like eating.

Or the days when I’ve had to explain for the eleventy-thousandth time that, yes, it really is okay to have your board president pre-sign this purchase agreement, and that my office, acting as  YOUR COUNSEL, will HOLD IT IN ESCROW and NOT RELEASE it to ANYONE until everyone has agreed to all of the terms of the sale AND the agreement has been finalized AND the figures have been independently verified by an outside accounting firm.  Either that, or the board president can sit around and wait for all that to happen (and no, there’s no way to know exactly when that may be), and if the agreement’s not signed by the end of the day, the deal’s off and we try again the next day.  And let’s hope the rates don’t go up.

Fortunately, I’ve got Peeps here to help hold down the fort.


And so, while the rest of the world was enjoying 70- and 80-degree afternoons, I was cooped up in my office, juggling multiple bond sales, holding dozens of nervous clients’ hands, tracking down documents that should have been here yesterday, or getting seals on bonds that need to close in a couple of days, packaging random documents to go to random people, missing out on all that gorgeous weather.

And now, when it starts to settle down a bit, and I can consider less than a 10-hour day, well, you know what I get?


Let me say that again.

It’s been SNOWING.  IN APRIL.  Oh, not a lot of accumulation or anything, and it’s not even really that cold (except in the sense that it’s not 80 degrees anymore).  But still.


So I kind of thought it might be nice to share one more soup before soup season ends and salad season starts.

That, and I’d fully intended to post this a couple of weeks ago, but I only got as far as uploading the photos before Duty called.

I’m managed to put a gag on Duty for the time being, and here I am, with one of the most surprisingly tasty soups we’ve had in a long time.

I still get the Cuisine at Home e-newsletter, and about a month ago, there was this Chinese Chicken & Corn Soup.


Although I did kind of wonder if “Chinese” was politically correct – shouldn’t it be be “Asian” Chicken & Corn Soup?

Well, I don’t know.  But I do know that we had some leftover roasted chicken, and I picked up some nice snow peas at the market, and we still have most of a quart of Peeps’s sriracha in the fridge. . .

And it’s cold and vile out.  Perfect soup weather, if you ask me.

And I’m busy and tired.  Perfect opportunity for a quick, hearty soup, wouldn’t you say?

Here’s a printable version, just in case you’re interested.  Which of course you are.


The easiest roast ever March 18, 2011

Posted by Peeps in Cooking, Cuisine at Home, Food.
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Now that Winter is starting to wind down, we’re going to be less likely to plan on meals that have the oven on for a good portion of the day.
Last year, about this time of year, my wife found a recipe for slow roasted pork shoulder with carrots, onions and garlic. It was so good. we vowed to make it again. Soon. Well, we finally remembered it a couple weeks ago.
You can find the recipe here, so I’m not going to bother giving you complete play by play.
Not that there would be much play by play. You pretty much leave it in the oven for five or six hours. Being driven insane by the smell of roasting pork most of that time.
The cool thing about this dish is that you don’t slice the finished product. When the pork is completely tender, you use tongs and break it up into fist size chunks and pop it all back into the oven again.
The now exposed inner part of the meat gets slightly browned, and you end up with lots of crisp, crusty exterior per person and wonderful moist meat.
The only things that we did differently than the recipe calls for is to use rosemary salt instead of plain salt. It added more flavor without any work and it didn’t effect the final dish at all. Oh, and we upped the cooking time. The shoulder that Toys got was a bit larger than the recipe called for. Which is good.
Did I mention that you have leftovers? Really good leftovers? That you can do all kinds of things with? Like soup?
Winter is not completely gone yet. You can stand to have your oven running for most of one day. It’s still pretty cool out. And you’ll have a fabulous meal. Really. Why would I lie?

Leftovers with Flair February 8, 2011

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cuisine at Home.
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Did you ever just stick something in the freezer to get it out of the way?  I don’t mean “make two freeze one” sticking things in the freezer.  More like “what the heck am I going to do the rest of this leg of lamb?”

PhotobucketIt may shock you to hear this, but I’ve been known to just shove it in the freezer until, well, inspiration strikes.  Sometimes, though, that just takes a while.

So anyway, you’ll remember that Peeps spent Thanksgiving with his mom.  But before he went, we enjoyed a roasted boneless leg of lamb.

Peeps is a huge fan of lamb – I am not.  I’ll eat it, sure, but it’s never going to be my first choice.  And when he left for Jersey, I had a good-sized chunk of meat left that I knew I wasn’t going to eat while he was gone.

So I chucked it in the freezer for “later.”


We got the December issue of Cuisine at Home, and hey, what do you know, one of the recipes featured was for “Shepherd’s Pie with Moroccan Spices.”

And I thought to myself

Self, I’ll bet I could do something like that with that leftover lamb and get it the heck out of the freezer!

“Later.”  Later has arrived.  Heh.


I took a look at the recipe, and I knew I’d have to make some, um, adjustments.  I was starting with about a pint container of already-cooked, diced leg of lamb, rather than the 4 pounds of shoulder chops called for in the recipe.

We can do this.

I started with that diced meat, and I tossed it, still frozen, into a hot pan, just to make sure it was well-done (my preference for lamb, plus I wanted to brown it a little).


Then we removed the lamb from the pan and browned a small onion (diced) (obviously) and a couple of cloves of garlic, then added 1/8 tsp. each of cinnamon, cumin, ground ginger, coriander, and allspice.

I love that Moroccan-style spice combination of cinnamon, cumin and ginger.  It’s probably far from authentic, but it’s so exotic, yet somehow comforting.

Once the spices have bloomed, we added some flour (1 Tbsp. to thicken) and about half a tablespoon or so of tomato paste (also helps thicken plus adds flavor)


Once we whisk in 1/2 cup of beef stock, a splash of red wine (maybe a couple of tablespoons), a Tbsp. or so of lemon juice, and a teaspoon of Worcestershire, we’ll add about 1/2 cup of diced tomatoes, a sprig (that amounts to a Tbsp.) of fresh mint, and maybe 1/4 cup of chopped dried apricots, then add the cooked lamb back in and set the whole mess aside.

The original recipe called for dried figs too, but I couldn’t find any.  Where would you even look in the supermarket for dried figs (besides Fig Newtons in the cookie aisle)?


Meanwhile, Peeps turned his attention to the topping.

This isn’t just your average shepherd’s pie, you know, with mashed potatoes.  Oh no.  It has a sweet potato topping.

The topping included about a pound of sweet potatoes and a couple of small-ish russet potatoes – all peeled and cubed, and all cooked together.

Once cooked, the potatoes got mashed together, along with a splash of milk,  a couple of Tablespoons of milk, and an egg yolk.  A little salt and pepper to taste, and we were set.


Since there were just the two of us, I divided the filling between two mini-casserole dishes that I picked up at the pottery shop last year, then we spread the topping on top of them.   I wanted to pipe the potatoes on to make them pretty, but in the end, I decided it was probably more trouble than it was worth.

We placed the mini casseroles on a sheet pan, because I know that no matter how carefully I spread the potatoes on the casserole, there’s going to be bubbling and oozing, and I’d rather clean it off a sheet pan than off the pizza stones on the bottom of the oven.

Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, let it rest a few minutes, and there you go.  Shepherds pie with Moroccan flavors AND using up that leftover lamb.  Where’s the bad?


Breakfast of Champions February 2, 2011

Posted by Toy Lady in Cooking, Cuisine at Home.
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Breakfast – the most important meal of the day.
PhotobucketAnd what, I ask you, makes a better, more hearty breakfast on a cold, snowy morning than oatmeal?

By the way, do you know that you can cook oatmeal in your rice cooker?  Yup – just dump in the oats, water and a pinch of salt, turn it on, and walk away.  What could be easier?

This particular morning it was cold.  COLD.  And, since it was Sunday, Peeps and I had taken the dog on an extra-long, extra-frosty walk.  And we’d recently gotten the current Cuisine at Home magazine, and a thought occurred.


What if, instead of making the chicken-apple sausage in the magazine, we used existing breakfast sausage?  And what if, instead of making patties to cook the eggs on, we made rings to cook the eggs in?

Little sausage donuts, if you will.  🙂

If I made the rings big enough to hold an egg, why, then I could, well, cook an egg in them!


Oh, this was going to be so good!  I shaped my sausage rings, and I cooked them in the big frying pan until the bottoms got good and brown, then I flipped them over.

And once they were turned, and re-assembled, where necessary, we cracked an egg into each hole. Then I just stuck the lid on the pan, shut the flame off, and let everything cook.


And there was one more “what if” – and this was the one that made Peeps raise an eyebrow.  He was decidedly leery of the my substituting oatmeal for. . . toast in the original recipe.

Think about it – you’ve got your oatmeal, you’ve got your sausage, you’ve got your egg, and they’re all in one convenient bowl.  All you’ve got to do is stir it together, and you’ve got just about everything that makes a winter breakfast well, almost worth trudging through the snow for an hour.