Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
You may want to see if you can find the program scheduled again in the next few days
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Go to the website www.olli.gmu.edu and click on Doc Store in the column at the lower left of the screen. From there you will have to scroll down to my class number F903. Be prepared for eight pages of reading.
Thursday, November 17, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
You see, when I recently learned that my Kindle could be used to borrow books from our public library system, I was thrilled and following directions given to me from the library, I tried to do that. But at the end of the process, because I have an older version of Kindle, I found that I couldn't do it directly but would have to download through my computer and then into my Kindle. Son Pete helped me to do that and the cokbook I mention was the first book I borrowed.
Those who enjoy just reading cookbooks will find this one delightful with interesting recipes; so good that I shall buy the book eventually, I'm sure. What I especially enjoyed was the intro to "Soups" where she said that whenever she would come in from a long trip, right after putting the luggage down, she would go to the kitchen and create a simple soup. She wrote: " I can almost hear the walls and floorboards and carpet hum in preparation for singing a Welcome Home composition...Before long, the aroma of soup, the sheer warmth of it would permeate the house" and she would feel like she was finally at home. She would go on, "All I know is my house has forgiven me and taken me safely back into its loving care."
Our family often did just that, not a major concoction because Campbell's would do the trick. And not in the mood for a heavy meal but wanting just something, a small warming libation like soup or tea that would signal that the household was back in action and we could settle in.
To make your house your ally, start with your kitchen.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
We had a small group of just the regulars at Fish Night again this week – in large part because one of our friends and expected guests had bad timing. Her baby was not due until Thanksgiving, but he decided to make his appearance on Sunday night! We were in the hospital waiting room with her family until very late in the evening. And my rowing buddy (and OLLI lecturer extraordinaire) were fortunate enough to get in one more row on Monday morning before the season closes. So, all-in-all, I was pressed to get Fish Night dinner on the table and relied on the tried and true – get someone else to do most of the work for you!
We had a rice cracker mix with drinks and started with a tossed green salad. Then:
- · Oven Fried Tilapia – here’s a great secret, but you have to keep it between you and me. Costco sells amazing, already breaded, tilapia that you just throw into the oven for 10 minutes and your guests will rave. The only dilemma is whether to fess up. I do, but it’s hard. I want to take credit. I did serve my home-made tartar sauce. More on tilapia in a later post. (The breaded fillets freeze well, by the way. Just be sure to use them within a couple of weeks or they lose some of their excellent flavor.)
- · Macaroni and Cheese – I don’t have a recipe for this. I just cook some macaroni, put it in a casserole dish and add cheese and milk/cream and seasonings.
- · Roasted Maple-Mustard Green Beans – a new recipe for me. This would have been an excellent dish if I had roasted them the vegetables long enough. It definitely takes longer than the recipe suggests. The beans and carrots should look roasted before you take them out of the oven. This is a very pretty dish.
To complete my strategy of avoiding work if at all possible, my guests ate brown and serve dinner rolls and a dish of pickled asparagus from Safeway.
I tried to keep to my strategy when it came to dessert, but the cookies I had been eyeing for months at Costco were awful! So I made some peanut butter cookies at the last minute – always a guest favorite with tea and coffee.
Fascinating Fish Facts: Learning where to buy fresh fish in our area took longer than it should have because I was initially unwilling to give up on “regular” grocery stores. I don’t know how many times I ended up with tasteless or “off” seafood before I understood that stores like Safeway, Giant and Shoppers are just not able or willing to devote the effort needed to be purveyors of excellent fish.
I love to buy fish from a real fishmonger – a store dedicated to seafood. Until this year, I loved going to Slavin’s (M Slavin & Sons), just off I-395 at Glebe Road. This was a branch of the famous NYC fish market by the same name. But it was too good to be true, and it closed after about five years in our area. The Maine Avenue wharf is another excellent place to buy seafood, but I’m rarely willing to go into DC to shop for Fish Night. Does anyone know of a good fishmonger in Northern Virginia?
For now, I am delighted with Wegmans and (surprise!) Costco. Both have excellent fish and know how to handle fish to keep it at its best. I’m not buying fish anywhere else these days. I once bought from Harris Teeter and was impressed, but have not been back because I love Wegmans so much. But if you have to buy fish from a seller you don’t know, NEVER buy it without smelling it. Any reputable fish seller will gladly wave a piece of fish under your nose. They expect a discerning shopper to confirm freshness in this way. If the seller shows the slightest resistance, keep walking. How do you confirm freshness with your nose? Just make sure the fish does not have a strong "fishy" smell – good fresh fish should smell like the ocean or the beach. More in a later post on choosing fish once you get to the store – and on frozen fish options.
My daughters tell me that blog posts should have photos and I intended to try to add a photo or two to this one, but babies wait for no woman. I’ll do better next time. (No post next week -- Fish Night cancelled so the cook can pamper herself at a Mexican spa!)
Monday, November 14, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Hopefully, I can post the instructions for these dishes on the Doc Store.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Friday, November 11, 2011
I tend to use www.epicurious.com as my first stop. I also refer to www.allrecipes.com occasionally. Then there is www.closetcooking.com, an eclectic mix of cuisines and idea. Recently I discovered www.thefrostedcupcake.blog.com (I need to verify this URL, as I am not at my usual computer to doublecheck) for yummy cupcakes. Google is also a go-to site, as long as you add "recipe" to your search query. It is amazing how many sites that come up as a result!
Some people like to use recipes with photos attached; this is not a criterion of mine, though.
Where do you search and what recipes appeal to you?
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
The usual crowd showed up for Fish Night this week – these are the folks we can count on every week. In addition to Husband and two adult daughters, we had neighbors Jack and Nancy and friend Hugo (names changed to protect the guinea pigs). It was great to see our neighbors at Fish Night because they are recently home from a vacation in Great Britain. They missed two successive Fish Nights, and we missed them. Daughter No. 2 is just back from an exhausting few days in New York, so we had lots of travel stories to talk about. Hugo brought a great bottle of white wine and a new (to us) CD to share, as he always does.
With our pre-dinner drinks, we munched on olives (from the Wegmans olive bar) and unsalted almonds. Then I served a tossed green salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing. For the main event:
- · Pan-Seared Prosciutto-Wrapped Flounder. I substituted flounder (rolled up) for the cod in this recipe because it looked better to me at the fish counter. The recipe calls for a number of Wegmans-specific ingredients that you don’t need – just substitute something similar. In fact, I used some of the Tomato-Vodka Pasta Sauce I made over the week-end instead of Wegmans Sweet Red Pepper Sauce called for in the recipe. Some people really liked this dish and some thought it was “ordinary.” It certainly made for a pretty presentation.
- · Mashed Potatoes and Celery Root -- just boil cubes of peeled celery root along with the potatoes and prepare as usual. I love celery root (also called celeriac), but it’s offbeat and not universally admired, especially when served by itself. In fact, I got a “thumbs down” on a raw celery root slaw last week. (I loved it!) But, I find that mixing celery root into mashed potatoes both disguises it and makes the mashed potatoes sweeter and tastier. Celeriac is an excellent source of vitamin K and a very good source of fiber. My guests loved this dish until a couple of guys learned they were eating celery root.
- · Peas – just plain old frozen peas – in fact, I think frozen peas almost always taste better than fresh peas (unless the fresh peas are eaten raw right off the wine out in your own garden), and they are just as healthy. I added a little mint to make them slightly less ordinary. Everybody likes peas; Daughter No. 2 took the leftovers home.
- · Slow Cooker Fennel Braised with Artichokes. This was an experiment. I found the recipe on the California Olive Ranch website. This company makes my favorite mid-priced olive oil. Fennel is another one of my favorite, slightly off-beat, vegetables, and I thought my guests might like it in this recipe. I knew I would and it’s so easy! Again, mixed reviews from the “corn and peas” guys.
- · Maple Cornbread was also a first-time use of the recipe (am I brave or foolhardy?) and is from the King Arthur Flour cookbook. I added a cup of frozen corn (thawed and pulsed a bit in the food processor). The reviews were mixed. Next time I will add a bit more maple syrup and more corn.
I don’t hesitate to purchase dessert for Fish Night or make something simple like cookies. But Daughter No. 1 bought some black walnuts at a farm market recently and she suggested that we use some of them in ice cream and the idea haunted me for the last couple of weeks. Black Walnut Ice Cream. While dessert was being served, Nancy went back to her house next door to retrieve her iPad so we could enjoy the pictures she took in England and Scotland (as well as some cupcakes she and Jack had bought at Lavender Moon in Old Town Alexandria -- delicious!).
Fascinating Fish Facts: According to a 2006 global study by a team of scientists from 12 academic institutions in five countries, all of the world's fishing stocks will collapse before mid-century, devastating food supplies, if overfishing and other human impacts continue at their current pace.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (a relatively conservative body), reports that over 25% of all the world's fish stocks are either overexploited or depleted. Another 52% is fully exploited, meaning that these are in imminent danger of overexploitation (maximum sustainable production level) and collapse.
Enough lecturing – I just wanted to explain why I try to be careful to make sure my fish purchases do not add to the problem – economic (when cod fishing collapsed from overfishing in Canada in 1992, 40,000 jobs were lost) or environmental (‘nuf said!). This is easier than you might think. The Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch puts out a great pocket guide that tells you what fish to avoid when at the grocery store or a restaurant. There is a pocket guide for our area. You can print the guide on your computer or order free cards that will be sent to you in the mail. The idea is to take it with you when you shop or dine. (I keep the guide as an app on my iPhone.)
A great National Geographic article on overfishing and its effects.
I see I’ve run on too long – new to blogging. I’ll do better next time.
Monday, November 7, 2011
Saturday, November 5, 2011
Friday, November 4, 2011
Unless commenters beg me to stop, I’ll try to post on this blog on Tuesdays about the previous evening’s Fish Night at the Spooner Household. It started more than 5 years ago when my next-door neighbor had serious heart issues and clearly needed to work on his diet. We all know that fish is heart-healthy, but he ate no fish (mayo-loaded tuna salad doesn’t count – nor does batter-coated deep-fried seafood) and told me he hated fish. We all needed more fish in our diets, and I was confident I could change his mind.
So I invited him and his wife to come to dinner every Monday to dine on fish. The project has ballooned and now most of our friends know they can join us on any Monday, and the numbers around our table range from 5 to 20 (and, a few times, even more) each Monday. Fish Night has even gone international. My daughter’s Australian friends have done the “Fish Night” thing with their own friends and family. And our European friends know not to phone any of us on Mondays, as we will have our mouths full! I love to cook and entertain – I especially like trying new dishes, so my guests are also my test subjects for new preparations. Win-win, right?
Anyway, I'm thinking I will write a note each Tuesday about our guests, what we ate and drank, and anything else what was noteworthy about the previous night. Maybe a recipe or two? Or a mention of which foods are in season and/or local? I’m hoping to get comments and suggestions – and maybe stories by others about their attempts to eat healthy and force their friends to do likewise!