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Archive for September, 2008

I didn’t behave myself so well this past week when it came to food. I just wanted to eat bad stuff. And I did. Chef BoyArDee spaghetti. Fast food burger and fries. Chicken and noodles from the campus Chinese fast food place. Not really high-quality fresh ingredients! I did eat some of my cabbage soup several times for lunch which at least gave me vegetables. I made a quiche with spinach and onions and Swiss cheese, but only ate two servings. And three candy bars this week. What is going on with me??!?!?

I know I know! I was preparing for my dinner out with Larry, my friend and neighbor. This past Tuesday we walked to Della Voce, my absolutely favorite restaurant in Manhattan. But since it is pricier than most, I don’t get there very often. We left our apartments about 6:45pm (yes, you people that know me well, about one hour before I usually go to bed!) and walked to Della Voce on Poyntz. We started with a carafe of wine, and bread with delectable herbed butter and a side of olive oil. For our first official course, he started with roasted red pepper soup, served cold, and I had a creamy tomato basil soup. I probably should have tried the roasted pepper soup, because I make my own tasty creamy tomato basil, but I just have never wanted to try a cold soup. Maybe next time.

Then came the entrées. Oh my goodness! He actually had for his main course a special appetizer of raviolis stuffed with Parmesan and lobster (I think it was Parm). That really, really sounded good to me because I adore lobster and have not had it in a long time. But I had not eaten much all day and was very hungry, so I wanted more food! I ordered the linguini and clams in a pink vodka sauce. And it was SO good! ‘Cept I couldn’t eat it all.

Then we had dessert, and Larry ordered a scrumptious looking chocolate cake with a dollop of whipped cream and some type of drizzle on top. Maybe a caramel sauce? Wow it looked good! I almost always order cremè brûlée for dessert when available, but this time I ordered a slice of cheesecake. Just plain. There was one strawberry set to the side and strawberry coulis drizzled over the plate but not on top of the cheesecake, which is exactly how I want it! That way I decide if I want strawberry flavors on a bite or not. It was so pretty, the white plate, white cheesecake, and the coulis lighlty trickled around and under the graham crust. Oh my goodness I wish I had some of that right now!

Larry also ordered a macchiato, which looked really elegant in the demitasse cup. When I asked him to tell me the exact definition of the drink, he said it was a shot of espresso with a little milk foam on top. The word “macchiato” means stain, the brown coffee peaking through the center of the foam was the stain. Or it can mean that the milk on top is the stain. Either way, there is espresso with a little foam. I know this sounds silly, but it was such a pretty drink. I’m sure I would not have liked it because I must have sweetener in my coffee, especially in espresso. And if I had added sweetener and stirred, then the macchiato would have looked so differently, and the interest would have been destroyed.

Who knows, maybe one reason I enjoyed the meal so much was the fact that I ate so poorly most of the rest of the week. Well, honestly, the conversation was super great. Really people, I listened that night, not just talked. Larry is a very talented individual who has led a life entirely different than my own. Living in Los Angeles. And New York City. [I’m not complaining about my own life. I made my own choices. But everyone that really knows me knows that I have always wanted to live for a while in New York City but never could figure out what talent I have that could get me there.] And he has interacted with people that I have only read about in magazines or newspapers or pretended to know. (That is a story for another day!) And when it comes to famous people, to use my favorite term, I can be a real goober. And while Larry was talking (he was not bragging or anything, I was just asking and asking for more stories), I probably looked like a goober right there in the restaurant! I hope I didn’t embarrass him.

I’m glad we walked, because I surely ate enough. And I was able to bring home what I did not eat and had a gourmet lunch the next day at my desk!

Other than all the fun I had eating and sharing good conversation, this was a troublesome week. I always told myself that this blog would not be about public policies coming from our government, but today I can’t not hold in my rage. This whole economic fiasco goes to show that capitalism and free market, as wonderful as it sounds, does not serve the people well without a dose of humanity. I believe we need a little more oversight than we have had in the past few years, maybe similar to what we had in the 50s and 60s when the middle class prospered so. Sad commentary on our country. However, as proud as I feel at being an American, we are still people. Just people. And in the midst of those who run successful businesses while paying fair wages, and thinking of their own financial health while still focusing on the same for their grandchildren, their other descendents, and descendents of their neighbors, there are those that run the economic system into the ground while they pile up their own funds. Henry Paulson, current Secretary of the Treasury, wants $700 billion dollars to fix the problem.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a “think tank” that provides reports to members of congress on a variety of subjects. Realize that our legislature cannot know everything about everything, and the CRS provides them with basic information as they begin deliberations on any subject. There is a CRS Report dated September 22, 2008 titled, Proposal to Allow Treasury to Buy Mortgage Related Asses to Address Financial Instability. This report explains in great detail the exact proposal that Paulson, with the help of the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, are making. In the first paragraph of the second page, in talking about the $700 billion Paulson wants, this report states, “The Secretary of the Treasury is granted discretion to administer the program, and decisions by the Secretary would not be reviewable in court or by any administrative agency.”

[Available CRS reports are easy to find: www.opencrs.com]

Can you believe the nerve of that man? We are suppose to trust him with that kind of money? With no review of his actions? Oh Pu-Lese!!! I have so many opinions about how this bill should be written, but lucky for you, I won’t go into them here. But I think almost everyone in the U.S. that is not a close friend of Paulson would agree that handing anyone that kind of money for free spending is absolutely out of the question.

There is so much more to ponder, but that is all I will say today on the subject. But you can be sure that my reps in DC will hear from me again this week as they move forward in passing some type of bill. It is important that those of us that care contact our Congressional representatives. We need to let them know what the citizens and voters and residents from “Main Street” want to see done.

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Well, I skipped the blogging this past weekend and here it is – Tuesday morning! I’m sitting in my bed with my kitty, Susie, studying me from the other pillow. I’m enjoying the nice cool morning through the opened window and sipping my first cup of coffee. And what a delicious cup of coffee it is!

Our daughter recently got a job at a Starbucks in North Carolina, and one of the benefits is a package of coffee every week. She lives alone (well, she has two kitties and a greyhound, but they don’t like to drink coffee) and cannot possible drink it all. Lucky for me she sends the beans to Kansas, which I grind for my coffee!! Oh my oh my how scrumptious!

This past weekend I attended a wienie roast outside the city limits of Manhattan (remember, that is Kansas, so I don’t mean in The Hamptons). One of the librarians hosted the feast, and I really, really had a wonderful time. There were right many people from the library I don’t see very often, so that is always fun. And there were spouses and children and a darling baby girl who did not want to let go of mommy. Yes. . .I remember those days well. Exhausting, but some of the best love ever.

There were vegetarian grilling products available, but I just don’t like them, yet. Maybe I haven’t been away from real meat long enough? And actually…..sigh…….I ate some chicken last week, but that is another story! Anyway, there were chips and brownies and about the best vegetarian beans I’ve ever eaten. You know, sweet and gooey. Oh my oh my – even tastier than my regular pintos with raw onions. I prepared a Greek pasta salad and by the time I left it was all gone. I love to cook when I’m not pooped. And it is especially fun to see people enjoy my efforts, and…..well……golly. I’m smiling right now just thinking about it! And there was everything one needed to make fresh S’mores. As the evening wore on and the temperature began to cool, even though I didn’t roast wienies or marshmallows over the fire, I enjoyed the warmth and watching others try to get their marshmallows just brown enough before bursting into flames! Jenny was the funniest, I think. Once hers caught fire she tried to blow on them, but couldn’t reach them because the stick was so much longer than her arms! Being short myself (but alas…..not petite like Jenny), I could appreciate her efforts.

Over the weekend I did a little cooking for the week. I made a huge pot of what is usually known as diet cabbage soup. Tomato juice, onions, cabbage, and frozen Japanese vegetable mixture or any vege mixture that does not include a starchy vegetable. The bag I chose had carrots in it, but no potatoes or corn or lima beans. And yes, a can of chicken broth. I seasoned with black pepper, a little Worcestershire sauce, and a little of my Splenda and turbinado sugar mixture. I was able to freeze about 6 one-cup servings and have been eating on the rest. Yesterday I took to work a sandwich (homemade tuna salad – yum!) and a nice big bowl of cabbage soup for lunch.

I also cooked up a mess of turnip greens and have one serving of that left in the refrigerator, but that is about all the pre-cooking I accomplished over the weekend. I have right much food in the freezer right now, so I need to eat it up before I fill it up some more. Am I lucky or what?!? Living in a country where I can have such a variety of tasty morsels? Yes, it does take time to make the healthiest choices, especially since I also care about where the food is grown and processed, which is, sadly, often impossible to discover. However, nutrition is absolutely about the most basic of our needs. I wouldn’t be typing on this computer or have time or energy to do my job at the library without it. So yes, since the rest of my life and everything it entails would not be possible without the right nutrition, I’d say the efforts to find the best and healthiest foods is of utmost importance in my life. And since I am spoiled, I will also attempt to find the tastiest food.

Like…….hmmm……..I’ve been wanting rice pudding. You know, made with whole milk (and maybe a little cream?) and eggs and processed sugar and the over-processed white rice. Later today I will have high-fiber brown rice for lunch, but if I make a rice pudding this weekend, it will be out of the over-stripped white morsels. And raisins. Don’t forget the raisins! And if bourbon didn’t taste like bourbon, I’d say some warm bourbon sauce poured over each serving would be the pièce de résistance. However, that stuff tastes like bourbon.

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How I love to eat!

I don’t usually have time until the weekend to share, but yesterday was such a great day I had to talk about it! Now, aren’t you the lucky one?

It just seemed to be a day I got a lot accomplished around the apartment. First I completed all the cleaning that had to be done – the rest, well, I’ll deal with it later. Then I prepared some of those meals I wanted. First, I made the shrimp gumbo. I make it with red pepper flakes, and it also calls for hot sauce, but sometimes it is just too hot for me. So this time I left out the hot sauce, and figured if I was sharing it with someone who wanted hotter, they could just add it at the table. Then, by mistake, I put in the whole 6 oz. can of tomato paste when I should have put in only 3 oz. I didn’t realize it until it had totally melded with the diced tomatoes. I could have added more tomatoes, but I didn’t have extra shrimp or okra for a larger pot, so I just added a little turbinado sugar to take out some of the “bitter acid” that too much paste can contribute.

Wow was it good! And I like thick stews more than soups, so the extra thickness did not bother me. Actually, it made the scoop of brown rice sit up even better than usual. Oh my goodness I cannot wait to eat it a second time – maybe for lunch tomorrow. I was able to get four nice size servings from this pot, and I froze two of them.

I also snapped and cooked some fresh green beans from the farmer’s market and I ate some of those for supper. Mmmmm. . . .made me really miss my mother-in-law’s cooking, even though mine were still scrumptious! And with these green beans I ate some of the homemade mac and cheese I prepared with whole wheat penne noodles. Creamy and so very tasty! That is what I am packing for my lunch today, more green beans, mac and cheese (I guess I should call it pen and cheese!), and a small raw vege salad.

For the cheese sauce I start with my own mom’s white sauce. (Boy am I glad I learned how to make that white sauce. Easy and used as the base for many creamy sauces.) I prefer Extra sharp NY cheddar for this, but I also added some regular NY sharp from a dairy in Alma, a town not too far from here. Even with low-fat milk it was creamy and rich, and I’m already looking forward to lunch! I believe I have about four more servings after today.

But the extra treat was. . . .yes. . . .a dessert. I made a Southern chess pie, a recipe I cut out of the newspaper some. . . .ahem. . . .33 years ago during our first year of marriage. It is simple, so very rich and sweet, and I think yummy! I made a pot of de-caf, and invited my neighbor over for a little tete-a-tete at the dining table. (oooh! I’ve always wanted to use tete-a-tete in a sentence!). We talked about his summer of research and learning and creative activity and I thoroughly enjoyed it. He really seemed to like my efforts at baking and of course that pleased me. Now I need to take the rest of the pie to another neighbor because I surely don’t need to eat any more of it.

Not only did I clean and cook, I got half-way through a project I need to complete by my evaluation time in October. And watched two episodes of Northern Exposure on the rented DVD. Yes, a good day.

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Very windy day this morning and cool. Just about my favorite kind of day in the world! I’m sitting in the bed with my coffee on the nightstand, my computer on one knee, and my kitty on the other. I’m getting hungry (what a surprise!) and thinking about my meals ahead. Yes, I always plan ahead for the day so that I can better have my mixture of carbs, protein, healthy fats, and nutrients. All of that within a minimum amount of calories. Actually, the calories are not the problem so much, because I just seem to eat the same amount day after day anyway.

I finally visited a nutritionist in Topeka earlier this week. She looked at several weeks of my eating plans and told me I was doing well and to just keep on as I was going. I have lost a couple more pounds, and you have already heard me rave about my last A1c test being so grand. Anyway, it was good to have a nutritionist confirm that my eating habits are good for my diabetes and weight loss efforts.

Before I went to the farmer’s market and grocery store yesterday I got out my own homemade cookbook that houses my favorite recipes. I picked a few I wanted to make this week, figuring how some would pack up for lunch, and bought foods according to my menu. Hmmm. . . .so what do I want today?

I still have two chicken thighs in the freezer. I’ve been wanting to try a Vietnamese recipe of curried chicken and sweet potatoes. I may fix that, or substitute the chicken with tofu. Or maybe prepare shrimp gumbo! The recipe I have is actually for fish gumbo and calls for catfish or grouper (which I understand is on the ecological “do not fish” lists), but you have already heard me moan about the lack of fish choices here in the Heartland. However, I do have shrimp! This recipe calls for yummy okra and lots of heat! And it also suggest putting a scoop of rice on the top, which is a wonderful way to get a bite of bland with the hot and spicy. The gumbo is so thick that the rice just sits there until I stick my spoon in it. And I already have brown rice in the refrig that I cooked last week.

Last night I had one of my favorite meals in the world. I purchased turnip greens at the grocery store (just can’t find them at the farmer’s market) and cooked them with a little salt, pepper, olive oil, and turbinado sugar. I washed an egg and set it on top of the greens for 10 minutes while they cooked. When the greens were done, I placed them in a bowl and topped them with raw onion, the chopped egg, and a little vinegar. I meant to get a piece of my homemade cornbread (Val – thanks for the recipe!) out of the freezer, but I was so excited about the greens that I forgot! But that bowl was just delicious. And, well, I ended the meal with a cupcake someone had baked for me, and that took care of the carb mishap!

Speaking of carbs, I may make one of my favorite pies today – a Southern chess pie. Mostly sugar, butter, and eggs. I haven’t baked anything sweet in a very long time because I have no one here to share baked goodies. Maybe I’ll invite a friend over this afternoon for pie and coffee. Hmmmm. . . . .now that sounds like a plan!

‘Cept I have some work to do. Laundry day. A little cleaning. And I worked right many hours at the library yesterday on a project, and with another two or three hours here today I could probably finish it. And that would be a positive move on my part. Yes, maybe a little cooking, some writing, cleaning, and another episode of Northern Exposure from the DVD I rented yesterday. Yep! That is my plan for the day!

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I wrote this blog yesterday morning, Sunday, August 31. I just got around to posting it today!

Sitting outside again this morning. Beautiful day! I sat out here in the back of the house for a little bit yesterday, but it actually got too cold. Oh, I would have made it with a sweatshirt, but I just had on a regular long-sleeve shirt and it just was not enough. Sure, I could have gone back inside and changed, but that sounded like too much trouble! Yesterday must have been a whiney day.

Picked up the hubby at the airport on Thursday and we have had a nice and interesting time getting re-use to sharing space again. It’s only for a few days each time, but after just a few hours it feels back to normal for me. After I picked him up at the airport in Kansas City, we stopped by a wonderful restaurant in the Legends’ shopping area called Granite City Food and Brewery. It was rather pricey, but not a whole lot more than any other sit-down restaurant, and absolutely delicious!!

I know from experience that when one flies the skies today, you are at the mercy of airports and airline companies. You cannot even take your own water on the plane any more, and some airlines charge now for water. I’m not questioning their methods of earning money, I’m just stating facts. When Brent or I fly, like most folks I guess, we carry trail mix and I also add an apple to my stash. It is healthy food, but after 10 hours of being awake and that is all I’ve had to eat, well, I’m ready for a healthy, filling meal. And besides, paying $10 for a really delicious hot sandwich is not much worse than paying $7 or $8 for a cold one at the airport. So. . . .Brent ordered a pork BBQ sandwich (ah. . . .he was missing the South already!) and I ordered three-cheese pasta in a pink cream sauce. Fresh Parm on top. Oh my goodness was it heavenly! I figured after eating the really good tossed salad I would get full and take half of it home. uh uh. After allowing Brent to eat one-half of one ravioli, I gobbled the rest. Maybe chop sticks would have slowed me down a bit, but I did not have those, so I sopped up every bit of sauce! Brent seemed to really enjoy his sandwich, too, because he was truly hungry. Me? I just wanted something really tasty!

That night I fixed us some of that wonderful shrimp salad that my brother taught me how to make. It has a mayo-based dressing, but I prepared pretty little plates with sliced tiny cucumbers (from last weekend’s farmers’ market), a sliced avocado, and some tiny tomatoes. And rolls I had bought frozen and had let rise in a warm oven. Yes, yes, they were white flour rolls, but I only ate one! Honest!

Friday morning I got up early and went into work for 4 hours. You know, that way I didn’t have to take as much vacation time and it smoothes the transition a bit from us living alone to having a spouse so close so soon! Brent met me at Houlihan’s for lunch, which is about half-way between the library and the apartment. He had tuna wontons and I ordered the spinach dip appetizer, and I DID bring over half of it home this time!

Friday night was the Friends of the Library annual gala, a fund raiser for the library. Brent and I got all gussied up and walked to the library to arrive at 6:30pm. That’s what people do for fancy affairs, they arrive, they attend, they don’t just “go”!

Now, fancy stuff does not excite me near as much as a casual dinner of fantastic food and intelligent conversation. But for a change of pace and a good cause, it was a wonderful evening. Each table sat 12 people, but there were 10 at our table, and it was a great diversive group as far as occupations go, (even though most of us worked at the library) with good conversation, and I did enjoy it tremendously. The food was delicious, but the only vegetables at the buffet were a small bowl of cucumber relish and another small bowl that held a bean and corn relish. Of course I got a little of each! I ate one of the corn biscuits (they had sweet potato biscuits and one flour-based, but too many biscuits would not have been so healthy!) and some noodles, but other than that there was pork and beef (and Brent said both of those were really, really good). The outdoors offered just the right temperature as we walked back to the apartment around 9:30. Ah. . . .friends, food, walking, an early evening. . . .yes, I had a wonderful time.

Saturday morning we stopped by the grocery store and went by Home Depot to see about shelving for two shelves I would like to have to put up in the kitchen near the stove for my most used seasonings and such. We didn’t buy any at the time, we just looked. We went to a Chinese restaurant we enjoy and ate with chop sticks (he is so much better at it than I am!) and I found broccoli and green beans, as well as the vege spring rolls and those oh-so-tasty-but-not-so-healthy crab rangoons. Fried catfish was tasty as well, but I didn’t eat much of it. And ice cream. A weakness of mine. yummy! We rode outside of the city for a bit on a road we had never traveled, but not too far because it was such a waste of gas.

For supper I prepared guacamole from avocados I purchased early in the day, black beans, and all the fixin’s for tacos or burritos or corn chips or whatever. I had a small steak in the freezer I had not eaten, and Brent sliced himself thin slices and stir-fried it with onions and green peppers to place in his burrito with all the other good stuff. He rolled up a second burrito so he’d have it today, only the burrito wrapping busted (they were not really fresh and even after softening with steam in the microwave they were still rather dry), so he ate the second one right there! Needless to say, after a warm cup of fresh coffee, he slept very well.

Today my plans are a fresh tossed salad for lunch and spaghetti for supper. Gonna make a pink sauce – that ravioli sauce was so good the other day I must make my own!

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