tasty nom nom an exception to the daily meal

31Mar/140

Heavy heart

Dear J -  I was happy to have cooking as a distraction on that sad Saturday February 22nd. Even thought I knew the day will come when I have to make the decision for the Fuzzies, it was not an easy day. I forged ahead, knowing it was a sound decision and they would be happy to see you and N.

When you asked me on Thursday whose turn it is, I hadn't given it much thought. A quick glance at the current issue of Bon Appetite, I selected Pork with Squash stew with chilies and Kohlrabi salad. The recipes fit all the criteria - not chicken, one pot, warm, and not too involved.

Even thought I was a little skeptical how few ingredients the stew had. I followed the direction almost exactly, substituting butternut squash for delicata. The stew was flavorful and the meat tender. I was surprised G said he liked it. It was nice, but not sure it earned a repeat in the rotation.

UntitledPork stew with pickled onions and cilantro

The salad. I've wanted to try kohlrabi for a while, this recipe was super simple. I used the white balsamic lavender vinegar from you. It has a great floral, not overpowering, fragrance. Oh, so Sunday morning, I discovered I left the hazelnuts in the toaster oven. I do seem to always forget an ingredient.

Untitled Shaved kohlrabi and apple salad

After dinner, we decided to try one of your Christmas gifts, the Asia expansion to Ticket to Ride.

It is a map of Asia, routes, and card holders. It uses the original Ticket to Ride trains and scoring pieces.  I managed to finished four routes and had the western part of Asia by myself and still lost. Hmm. I am starting to think it is all in the routes.

P.S. Thank you for bringing sushi for my birthday dinner. It was tasty as always.

17Mar/140

Meat ‘n Potatoes

Dear E,

I just noticed I had approximately 57 tabs open with recipes and remembered that I have fallen down on my TNN blog duty. Jeez. Whack me with a club!

Many weeks ago (ahem first weekend in February), we did a simple dinner of meat 'n potatoes. Last minute planning.

ribeye, latkes, asparagus
plate

Grass-fed ribeyes from Whole Foods on the grill. Not much to say there!

Latkes -- fried in a combination of butter and sunflower oil. I think they need less potato powder and more potato shreds.

Aspargus, roasted in the oven a bit too long-- as usual! I cook it fine at home with us, but somehow, add company to the equation and I flail and the asparagus inevitably gets overcooked. Sigh!

After we booted someone from your seat, we played some Settlers of Catan.

Building with my Settlers of Catan pieces
architect

Or maybe you all played Settlers and I worked on my architect skills. After Settlers, we pulled out my new Hello Kitty Uno decks.

hello kitty uno
hello kitty uno

Well. I think they are much less annoying than the last few decks of Uno cards, but I might be biased by the cute. I don't remember who won. Does it matter? There's no strategery!

See you next time!

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3Feb/140

Cooking is my therapy

Dear J -  Two Fridays ago, I decided to take some mental health time. Cooking therapy of comfort food was in order. I started by rendered some prosciutto end (thanks!), browned some oxtails, added onion and garlic, and deglazed with red wine. The pot simmered for most of the evening on low, filling the house with the rich smell of meat. It rested overnight and the fat solidified for easy removal.

mosaic58978590aa75e5025aef06000ab6cf1f75c4f0f5prosciutto, deglazing, tomatoes portobello carrot, and finished dish

On Saturday, I reheated the pot and simmer on extra low until meat was tender and falling off the bones. And skimmed more fat off. Then added portobello mushrooms, carrots and canned of San Marzano tomatoes. Accompanied by polenta and some roasted collard and kale, with shaved Parmesan on top and sprinkled with parsley.

Oh, almost forgot, I got some miscellaneous meats from International Deli -  bear sausage, spicy pork (?), and tongue headcheese, and a small slice of Halva with chocolate for dessert. Much debate about whether the sausage was actually Bear. And much thanks for bringing a growler of beverage.

Untitledmeats, from International Deli

You are right that I was really worried. Certain people (plural) dislike certain textures. So when I pulled the bones out, I also tried to pull out the gelatinous bits. Then I also remember (I think) that you mention certain people like their protein separated from the starch and vegetables. Here I am, serving ambiguous protein, with starch and vegetables in one dish. "There is always Taco Bell."

 J put a train on a route

By request, we played Ticket to Ride after dinner. N won. I picked three initial routes that overlap, then an additional one that extends from my original three. I thought I played a very thrifty and efficient game, but still lost. Hmm,   N has a winning strategy.I think we may have played out this game. Power Grid may be in order (BGG).

25Jan/140

Jerusalem

Dear E,

For the holidays this year, my mom and I bought one another the same cookbook, Jerusalem. This cookbook has quite the cult following -- people have been having Jerusalem parties where each person invited brings a different dish from the book and it was the top-selling cookbook in the summer of 2013.

It's not a cult party, but I decided shortly after Christmas that I would make the roasted cauliflower salad and kofta for our next game night. That's just what I did.

roasted cauliflower salad
roasted cauliflower salad

I really liked this roasted cauliflower and hazelnut salad. I roasted the cauliflower and toasted the hazelnuts in the morning, then put the rest of the salad together later.

The salad has a head of cauliflower, roasted. I tossed it with the spices -- cinnamon, allspice, salt and pepper. It is tossed with celery, toasted hazelnuts, a ton of flat parsley, and pomegranate arils. I let this sit for a few hours at room temperature before adding a touch of the dressing -- sherry vinegar, maple syrup, and olive oil. I really liked this salad a lot and think is a great winter salad.

You'll have to let us know how it held up overnight, since you took the leftovers!

Along with the salad, I made kofta. I used half local grass-fed lamb (it was VERY lean) and half local grass-fed beef. I wanted to cook the kofta medium-rare, so I was a little particular about the ground meat I picked up. I probably would have cooked them a little more if G wasn't under the weather at home!

The recipe in Jerusalem is a little different from other kofta recipes we've made. There's no binder but it does include onion, garlic, pine nuts, parsley, a medium-hot chile, and more spices.

Sunflower oil
sunflower oil

I made the meat mixture and formed the kofta in the early afternoon, then set it in the fridge to chill and firm up. I believe this helped them hold their shape without a binder. Then I seared them in sunflower oil, per the recipe. This took a little longer than I expected. I pulled them out of the pan at 120-125°F, then placed them on a platter with tahini sauce, and popped them into the oven, just for a few minutes, taking them to medium-rare without losing their crust.

kofta b'siniyah
kofta b'siniyah

I'd give both recipes a thumbs up. I've made about five or six recipes from Jerusalem now, and there hasn't been a bad one yet. Not bad!

Before dinner, I had wanted us to try Tzolk'in for the first time. But I didn't have enough time to learn the game in advance, so we fell back to the old standby, Settlers of Catan.

three player catan
three player

With just three players, there was so much space on the board. It was like stretching out in a huge hotel bed. I tried to fly under the radar as I picked up grain and ore resources and upgraded my settlements. I managed to pull off the win! Yay me!

Next time up here I hope we can try Tzolk'in (BGG). It looks promising! This video of the gameplay might be worth watching in advance.

17Jan/140

Little victories

Hi J - Happy New Year!

After the leisure holidays and short work weeks, I endured a very long work week. I must have woken up and though it was Friday at least three times. I was very much looking forward to the weekend. For our first take of the year, I decided on a simple repeat - meatballs, anchovy pasta, and kale. And a 'cake', for the small victories like running water and the mobile you.

Untitled

Simple and hopefully tasty. High carbohydrate meals so this is a real treat. I am hoping to clean out my pantry so I used angel hair pasta instead of the usual spaghetti. I forget, but I thought someone prefers spaghetti? (or I imagined it.) Oh hey, I found this handy chart on When Pasta Meets Sauce. I should try all the pasta shape, how fun.

The meatballs were an equal mix of pork, beef and Italian sausage. Seasoned with Parmesan cheese, anchovy paste, generous amount of red pepper flakes (oops)  and black pepper. I opted to bake them in the oven instead of browning them on the stove top (lazy). Pasta was tossed with olive oil infused with garlic and almost a tube of anchovy paste, lemon zest and chopped parsley.

After dinner and a little lolly gagging, we started Ticket to Ride.

 a wreck of a hand of train cards 

What? I forgot we have to match the train card colors to the track track colors. After I got the hang of it and juggled my cards, someone blocked me. sigh

Untitledfini

I remember the last time running of of train pieces, so I carefully counted before I kept another route card. And the long way around to Phoenix actually forced me to realize the longer way around may not always be detrimental.

Untitledcake, not real cake.. cake with a k? 

For the 'cake' - boxed yellow cake with lemon jell o. The unnatural shade of yellow cracked me up. It matches the yellow GIR spatula you gave me :)  I think I prefer the version that adds jell o after the cake is bake vs this version with jell o baked with lemon icing. N is so right that it is as sweet as a donut. Yikes.

Stay warm and see you soon,

31Dec/130

Giving Thanks for Teamwork

Good afternoon, E!

This year, I think we were all sort of too drained to make one of our usual complicated Thanksgiving meals. I was housebound and supposed to keep my surgically altered foot elevated as much as possible. We split the effort and store-bought a few things and had a nice, relaxing (?!) Thanksgiving.

meats
meats

You and G brought some tasty meats and herring from International Deli in Bellevue. There was a beef product that reminded me of Lebanon bologna, a deli favorite of mine. The headcheese was delicious and reminded me of Russian holodets -- I wanted to add fresh horseradish to it. Yum.

You and G also brought the main event: a ham from Honeybaked Ham and a kale salad.

On one foot and a knee scooter, I made a few simple side dishes.

Mashed potatoes, which I like chunky and with skins on. I use a combination of potato water and milk to thin them out.

Roasted Brussels sprouts, which I just halved and tossed with oil and salt.

E's plate
E's plate

Cranberry sauce, which I like spiced up. Similar to Tyler Florence's recipe.

pumpkin pie
pumpkin pie

I also made one pumpkin pie on a graham cracker crust. The recipe I used is the one on the Trader Joe's can of organic pumpkin, but it is very similar to Suzanne's Old-Fashioned Pumpkin Pie.

You saved us with whipped cream for the pie. Yum.

Thanks for putting up with us for another holiday!

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29Dec/130

Somewhere in the Middle

Dear E,

Stories of N's lasagna have crossed the country. Pounds of sausage and ricotta, freezers full of noodle. Oh, the garlic! "I ate three pieces and didn't have to eat again for a month!"

Well.

N made lasagna in November, shortly after I had ankle surgery and was in no shape to even help cook anything. It was different -- less extreme. Less cheesy. Less meaty. Less garlic.

lasagna
a different lasagna

Still tasty. G was disappointed as he wanted the many pounds of cheese and meat version.

N used fresh store-bought lasagna noodles, which we liked. He only used ground sausage in the sauce. A layer of fresh spinach (not pre-cooked) releases some liquid into the lasagna, but as long as the sauce isn't too watery to begin with, it works out without soaking the lasagna. Not bad. Simple and quick, which is what we needed.

He also made a Greek salad ... upside-down.

upside-down salad
surprise!

That's a lot of croutons!

After dinner, we played five person Uno, as my mom was in town helping out after my surgery. The strategy (what strategy?) was a little different with five people and me sitting between N and G instead of my usual spot between you and N!

uno
Uno

I put a big asterisk on this game though. Hey, I blame the painkillers.

cheesecake
cheesecake

Lucky us, you made a half plain-half pumpkin cheesecake. Mmm. It was delicious.

Until next time!

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23Nov/130

Who’s on first?

Dear J -

I hope you are doing ok and resting. I am taking the day to dig out of my many piles. One of which is to catch up here - this long forgotten evening of some store bought marinated flank steak, too crispy potatoes, and spaghetti squash.

Untitledlow effort

Untitled

And who won this game of Catan? or how poorly I did on Mama Mia!  Fortunately, there will be more opportunities to make a better dinner, and chance to do better on whatever game we choose.

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31Oct/130

Approximately Dinner

Dear E,

Yet another last-minute menu plan.

Earlier in the week, I asked a mutual friend if he had tried peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese. He had not. I thought I'd make some quickly -- I dusted them with some savory sage salt.

goat cheese stuffed peppadew
goat cheese peppadew

The previous week, I had planned a meal that the power company decided to interrupt. Thankfully you and G were flexible and instead we had a nice meal out.

From the interrupted menu, I decided I would make roasted delicata squash but I switched up the rest of the menu.

For some reason I wanted to make roast beef. Why? I have no idea. Loosely following this recipe, which had me cook the roast on a rack in the center of the oven, so that it could cook from all sides at once. It starts at a high heat to crust the outside, then the temperature is dropped and it finishes cooking.

roastbeef

N's mom makes a chopped salad that I love. I have tried to copy it many times to no avail. This weekend, N called her to ask for her recipe. The secret? She blends blue cheese with ranch dressing and avocados for the dressing. Aha! It looked like a lot of dressing but it was mostly avocados!

e's plate
e's plate

I had pulled out Agricola, but N wasn't feeling up for it so he dealt our new Uno deck. It was labelled Uno Mod, which I thought was just a reference to the new deck design. Oh no. There is actually a new CARD. This new card allows the player to play it and hand out cards of the color selected to all of the other players. I don't think we liked it much! Why mess with success?

Uno MOD
Uno MOD

After G beat us in Uno, we played a bit of Carcassonne.

Carcassonne
Carcassonne

It was a close game. I've been playing a lot of Carcassonne on my phone. Maybe it's helping -- the rest of you usually destroy me in Carcassonne.

See you next time!

19Oct/130

Do it again

Hi J - I think I've satisfied cravings for Indian food for a while. How about you? First, we had take out from India Gate, then the lack of power at your house put us at Spice Route the following week.

In between the two meals of yummy India food, we managed a game of Settlers of Catan.

Untitled

Where we had a close game but you won!

Untitled

Then, you share this link, about friendships and games. Here is to more sharing my game nights with you and N. :)

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