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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: 07.23.2012 Edition July 23, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in 101 Things, Cooking, Giveaway, Home, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff.
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Oh, hey, it’s finally happened!

I’ve picked my first Beloved Jetstar of the year, so I cooked some of Peeps’s wonderful bacon, made a batch of fresh mayonnaise, and we had BLTs for lunch.  Well, the Boy and I had BLTs.  Peeps passed on the tomato, lettuce and mayo portion of the show and just enjoyed a bacon and cheese sandwich.

That’s okay – he doesn’t realize what he’s missing out on, that’s all.

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We finally decided to invest in an actual charcoal grill – I know Peeps has his smoker, which, technically, we can use as a grill (with a bit of rearranging, I guess), but still.

I remember when I got my first gas grill, how cool that was – and that’s all we’ve used for, oh, probably close to 20 years!  And now, how cool is a charcoal grill?

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I’ve been picking green beans faster than we can eat them!

This past week, they’d piled up so much that I knew I had to do something – so one morning before work, I blanched a bunch of them and spread them out on a sheet pan to go in the freezer.

Once frozen solid, I transferred them to a freezer bag – looks like we’ve got just about 2 pounds of “fresh” frozen green beans to enjoy this winter!

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Have you run into any wild Alaskan salmon this year?

From what I understand, this has been a record year for salmon runs, and it’s showing – wild Alaskan salmon is all over the place locally (upstate New York!), and it’s cheaper than I’ve ever seen it!

If you do see any on sale, I’d urge you to give it a try – it’s still a bit of a splurge, but don’t you deserve it?

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See, even our grumpy kitty approves!

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Oh, the garlic!

You may remember that we’ve planted garlic the past couple of autumns – well, here it is!

Last year, we let the scapes go too long, which, essentially, stunted the garlic cloves, and we ended up with these little tiny bulbs.  Tasty, but small.

This year, I nipped those scapes as soon as they appeared, and the garlic greenery has all pretty much died back, so we pulled them up – much nicer this year!

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Oh my gosh Puppies!

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Have you heard about the Warrior Canine Connection?  This organization trains service dogs for disabled vets, but that’s not all.

Obviously, these puppies need to be socialized and trained first – and that’s where they actually begin their work.  WCC puts the puppies in the hands of vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury to be trained – thus helping  the dogs, these vets today, and then, eventually, the vets whom the dogs have been trained to ultimately assist.

How cool is that?

And best of all – they’ve set up a LIVE PUPPY CAM for their latest litter of 6 golden retrievers!  Sleeping puppies, playing puppies, eating puppies, wrestling puppies – all puppies all the time!

I haven’t gotten much of anything done at work this past week. . . oops.

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The moment I know everyone’s been waiting for – the final count of my penny jar!

Believe it or not, that huge bottle, holding something over 10 pounds of pennies, held a mere 2,409 pennies (plus three dimes that I have no idea how they got there).

And with a guess of 2,451, Anne came the closest – only off by 42 cents!

Anne, I’ll be contacting you by email with the code for your $10 Amazon certificate!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  Can you believe how the summer is FLYING by?  Of course, I say the same thing every year, but still.

It certainly does look like a stellar week coming up, though, doesn’t it?

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Monday –  I picked up some very nice scallions at the market last week, and  this ginger & scallion beef just looks fantastic, doesn’t it?

Tuesday – I came across this lemon-tarragon pork chop recipe on the National Pork Board’s website and thought it looked good.  It just be quite nice with some sauteed kale (from the garden!) and maybe foil-packet cooked potatoes.

Wednesday –  Our supermarket has whole chickens on sale this week, and you know we’re suckers for roasted chicken!  However, this week, we’ve decided to break in our new charcoal grill and make Smoked Chicken with Lemon-Ginger Barbecue Sauce.  Peeps wants to do macaroni salad, and I’m sure we’ll have green beans to go with it, too – after all, ’tis the season

Thursday -Since we’ve already got beef, pork, and chicken, we try to go with something a little lighter – ideally meatless, but nothing was inspiring both of us this week.  So the next “lighter” meal is fish, right?  We pulled out an old favorite – grilled tilapia with smoked paprika that we’ll do with Alaskan whitefish instead.  And, of course, the parmesan polenta is always a winner, and we’ll enjoy a nice tossed salad with it all.

Friday – We all know what happens at this time of year on pizza night, right?  Tomatoes and fresh herbs, that’s what.  Or maybe fresh herbs and tomatoes.  Peeps sticks with his pepperoni and cheese, which is fine.  More tomatoes and herbs for me and the Boy!

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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Thing #96: A Thing, A Milestone, and a Guessing Game July 18, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in 101 Things, Giveaway.
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This giveaway had ended – thank you to all who participated!

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Wow, that’s a lot of stuff going on here, isn’t it?

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I haven’t forgotten my 101 Things List, though, obviously, I’ve been slacking in that area.  A lot.

But first – a milestone.

This is our 1,000th post.

That would be ONE THOUSAND.  Can you believe it?

So here’s what we’re going to do.

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I’ve spent the past year and a half, maybe 2 years, collecting pennies.

A LOT of pennies.

We’ve been dumping them into an old Jack Daniels bottle – a 1.75 ML bottle.

I’m not sure how much that is in real measurements – slightly less than half a gallon, I think.    Regardless, it’s a lot of pennies, and it’s taken a while to accumulate them.

By the way, you know the phrase “bottle neck” right?  Yeah, dumping pennies out of a booze bottle make that term abundantly clear.

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And so.

We dumped the 1.75 litre bottle of pennies into a 5-quart pail and filled it . . . about halfway, give or take.

I put it on the scale, but it was over the 9-pound, 15-ounce limit of our kitchen scale, and I didn’t feel like hauling it upstairs to weigh it on our people scale.

We took the bucket o’ pennies to the nearest Coinstar machine – where we signed up to get an AMAZON.COM gift certificate.

(As an aside:  Coinstar doesn’t charge a service charge if you select gift certificates, and honestly, Amazon is like Alice’s Restaurant – you can get anything you want.  Good as cash.)

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So here’s what we’re going to do (again).

I’m going to GIVE AWAY (the equivalent of) one thousand pennies in an Amazon give certificate (that’s actually $10.00).

And all you’ve got to do is guess how many pennies were in the original, 1.75 litre bottle.

Or how many dollars’ worth of pennies were in there.  Either way.

I’ll tell you this – there were several “reject” pennies – a lot of Canadian pennies, and pennies that had been too abused to go through the machine.

But, to make up for it, there were also, somehow, three dimes mixed in.  I have no idea how they got in there, but I have my suspicions.

And here’s another hint – it’s nowhere near enough to pay off the mortgage.

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So there it is – give me your best guess – tell me how many pennies (or, convert your pennies to dollars)  we cashed in from our 1.75 litre bottle of pennies.  we’ll determine whomever comes closest at the end of the day Sunday (call it 4:00 eastern) – the winner of a $10 Amazon gift certificate will be announced on Monday.

So. . . leave a comment and tell me how many pennies you think we were able to collect – and you could end up with 1,000 free Amazon pennies!

On Pork, Silicone, and oh, a Giveaway!* February 15, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Cook's Illustrated, Cooking, Food, Giveaway.
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Remember back a couple of years ago when we made the Chicken Enchiladas?

You remember, when we had to take the poor puppy baby to the vet for x-rays?

Well, anyway, we really enjoyed those enchiladas.  They were super-tasty.

But then, what do you expect from a Cook’s Illustrated recipe?

Of course, it was a wee bit labor intensive.

But again, what do you expect?

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Both of which, of course, are fine, fine things to do with leftover pork, yes.

But so is a batch of enchiladas.  And it had been so long since we’ve last had them, too!

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I’m not going to go into an awful lot of details – the basic idea is right here and a printable version is right there.

Turns out, if you’ve got lovely leftover roasted meat, you can skip that pesky chicken-cooking step.

And you know what else?  If you went a little crazy  and roasted a BIG pork shoulder, you can even double the recipe and make a bunch of enchiladas for the freezer your neighbors.

Don’t be greedy – there’s enough for everyone!

PhotobucketWhat I really REALLY wanted to tell you about is this.

A while back, oh, gosh, it must have been a couple of years ago,  I ordered these silicone steamer things on Woot.

Must have been in a fit of “gotta lose weight so let’s start steaming stuff” – you know?  That, and it was a Woot-off.  Things get a little crazy during Woot-offs, you know.

And so anyway, they were in two-packs, and they came in three colors, and they were a really great deal.

And, since they came in three colors AND there was a limit of three, it only seemed right that I get one of each, you know?

As it happened, these steamers were a little smaller than I thought – not quite big enough to steam enough veggies for two (unless you don’t care much for your vegetables, of course), and I’ve been pretty much using them for reheating stuff for lunches – something for which they’re admirably suited, sure, but I don’t think we’re getting the full impact of silicone that way.

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So I was putting together the enchiladas, and, I don’t know how, but I either ended up with one extra, or 5 short.  And really, what am I going to do with one lonely enchilada?

(No, I’m not giving it to The Jar – I don’t care HOW much pitiful he looks!)

(Oh, don’t worry too much – he got to clean up some stray shreds of cheese off the floor.)

But then I remembered – SILICONE!

This stuff is OVEN SAFE!  (Up to 430°F, anyway.)

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I assembled it, covered it, and shoved it in the 400° oven until it was good and melty, then uncovered it and let the cheese brown.

I did make sure to put the silicone dish on a sheet pan – I’ve had enough experience with flimsy foil pans, I don’t even want to think about trying to pull silicone with hot cheese out of the oven!

It was perfect.  The food cooked, the cheese browned, and, best of all, the dish cleaned up like a dream!

So here’s the thing.

Since I can’t resist a good deal AND free shipping, I went a little overboard when I bought these and now find myself with an unopened package of Orka Personal Silicone Steamers.

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They’re oven-, microwave-, and dishwasher-safe. Oh, and none of that BPA stuff to worry about.

There are some decent reviews on Amazon, too.

They really are a “personal” size – a 12-ounce capacity, which is about the size of, oh, a single enchilada with sauce.

Or a burrito.

A slice of lasagna.

Or, and this is a crazy one, a good-sized serving of broccoli.

So do this – leave me a comment and tell me what you like to eat for lunch.

Do you slap together a sandwich?  Reheat last night’s dinner?  Go out for lunch?  Or (perish the thought!) skip lunch?

Friday evening, I’ll randomly pick a number and sent the winner a set of these really cool silicone steamers, in basic, neutral black.  Call it Friday at 5pm.    Eastern time.  How’s that?

Oh, and sorry, but it’s got to be a US address.  I’ve shipped overseas before and I don’t need to do THAT again any time soon!

*  Stuff that probably should be said:  I have not been compensated in any way by Woot, Amazon, Orka, Mastrad, or anyone else for this post.  No one gave me any freebies, and any postage is coming out of my own pocket.  I’m just trying to clear out some cupboards and would love to share some neat stuff with one of my lovely, lovely readers.  You’re welcome.

I am SO not in the mood July 14, 2010

Posted by Toy Lady in Giveaway, random stuff.
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First thing – if you haven’t entered our giveaway, be sure to skip on over there and leave a comment for a chance to win the drawing for a $40.00 gift certificate from CSN Stores!  We’ll be firing up the Random Number Generator Tuesday at 5PM Eastern time, and we’ll announce the winner next Wednesday, so be sure to get your entry in!

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OK, I’ll admit it.  I’m slacking.

I was going to tell you all about the truly delightful lentil dish we enjoyed last week, then enjoyed again this week.

It was really good.

And I had literally just sat down to tell you about it when the phone rang.

It was my Surly Boy.

He’s lonely.  He didn’t say that, exactly, but a mom knows.

He spent a good hour (or longer – I kind of lost track of time) (I am not exaggerating!) telling me about work.

He ran the battery down on the cordless phone; it started beeping and I had to switch to a corded phone.

Telling me about his adventures at work.

He’s a welder.  How exciting can it be to a non-welder?

Take it from me — not so much.

It’s hot.  The one person who’s been causing problems for him has been fired.  Things are going better for him now.  Lots of beer.  Did he mention that it’s hot?

But he’s my son and and it’s interesting to him.  I love him, so I listen.

So anyway.

I guess what I’m saying is that my kid ate my homework.

I’ll tell you about the lentils another time. . . they’re worth reading about, believe me.  That, and I’ve already uploaded the photos.

Go sign up for the giveaway if you haven’t already, and stay tuned tomorrow for Third Thursday – it’ll be super-interesting!