New Food Friday Flash – Trottole

13 Feb Trottole with Gorgonzola and Artichoke Quarters

Once a week I get grocery flyers from Meijer, Kroger, Marsh, and Aldi. (Most recently, 1/8/15, a Save-a-Lot grocery store opened near me.) I’ve always avoided Aldi because you need to have a quarter (25¢) handy to use one of their carts. You can’t use credit cards and you have to bag your own groceries and bring your own bags! However, food prices are lower although that is getting harder and harder to tell because with fuel prices plummeting, all grocery stores are lowering prices! At least they are here in Indianapolis. Ever the adventuress, I decided it was time to give Aldi a try. On one of my trips there, I came across a gourmet pasta called Trottole. I thought this pasta was different enough to be a part of my New Food Friday Flash.

Trottole Front Label

Trottole Front Label

 Trottole is a tri-colored pasta in the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, and red. The red comes from tomato powder, the green from spinach powder. These Trottole are imported from Italy. The pasta shapes are big! They look like a salesman’s sampler for the Michelin man. (If that doesn’t make any sense to you, you need to watch the Antiques Roadshow more often.)

Trottole Back Label

Trottole Back Label

 Because these Trottole are so thick, they need a longer cooking time: 11-13 minutes for an “al dente” tenderness. I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s a long wait for pasta! Trottole have an interesting mouth feel. They’re fun to chase around the plate with your fork.

 

The first time I made them, I combined them with feta cheese, broccoli florets, chopped garlic, olive oil, walnut pieces, and pasta water. I covered the pan so the cheese would melt. It made a nice gravy-like consistency for a dish I enjoyed very much!

A nice salad to serve with these Trottole is a spinach and pear salad with sliced avocado, carrot slivers, and blue cheese dressing.

Spinach Pear Salad

Spinach Pear Salad

 

The second time I made them, I poured a sausage tomato sauce over them that I had made from ground turkey, crushed fennel seeds, and other ingredients that I had made weeks ago and stored in my freezer. I wish I had the patience to write down all my cooking experiments so that I could duplicate the successful ones. Alas, this sausage sauce was the best one I ever made and I don’t have a clue how to make it again.

 

The third and last time I cooked these pasta from its 17.6 oz package for $1.69, I cooked them my favorite way for pasta, mixing them with a jar of quartered artichokes, chopped garlic, olive oil, and gorgonzola cheese.

Trottole Blue Cheese Artichoke dish ingredients

Trottole Blue Cheese Artichoke dish ingredients

This is an easy, quick recipe worth noting for when you are rushed for time or too tired to cook. You get your calcium, fiber, protein, and carbs. There is no sodium in the Trottole. It’s a delicious, nutritious dish.

Trottole with Gorgonzola and Artichoke Quarters

Trottole with Gorgonzola and Artichokes

 The only negative comment I have for these pasta is the packaging. I ended up cutting my finger trying to remove the snap-like closures on the cardboard and plastic packaging. There are two of them as you can see in the photo. I was worried that one or both could end up in my pasta dish. Carelessness in this area could earn you a broken tooth. The edges of these snap-like buttons are sharp. Take my advice, get scissors!

Gourmet Pasta

Trottole Gourmet Pasta with Snap Seal

 

Otherwise, Trottole are fun to eat. They may be too fat to serve to young children who may choke on them. It’s better to stick with small pasta for them like stars, elbows, or baby shells. If you can find it, alphabet pasta is good for kids too! They are tasty and educational!

 

Speaking of education, my Italian translation software tells me that trottole means tops or whirligigs. “Hey honey, can you make some whirligigs for dinner tonight?” Wink, wink!

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My Writing Process Tour

3 Feb Process depicted with gears

The person who nominated me for the Writing Process Tour is Gerard Villanueva. His blog is called Bread and Tortillas. He writes much more than the topics of bread and Tortillas. He also includes dishes that go well with bread and tortillas like soups or salsa. His bread recipes are very different and may include such ingredients as pumpkin seeds, amaranth, figs, or mushrooms! Recently he became a vegan. His photographs are some of the best you’ll see on WordPress and they make his dishes very enticing! I’ve insisted that he is a professional chef on TV but he keeps denying it and I don’t know if I believe him. Gerard has the knack of getting to the heart of my posts which demonstrates itself by the comments he leaves on my posts. His comments are always thought-provoking and positive. Thank you Gerard!

The rules for the Writing Process Tour are the following:

  1. Acknowledge the person who nominated you.
  2. Answer the tour’s 4 questions.
  3. Select three others to participate.

 

What am I working on?

Besides this? I continue to work on my body. I still don’t have a 6-pack yet but I’m getting there. I have exercise DVDs that I own and combine them with similar ones from the library which I renew over and over. I recently found one called Lord of the Abs Hard Core. It’s very good despite the corny name. I still do kickboxing and boxing & conditioning exercises. I found a good Pilates for Men DVD recently too. I have found that exercise DVDs for men, instructed by men, are more challenging than woman instructed DVDs. I put all of them in an order so as not to do two weight lifting or kickboxing DVDs back to back and then I workout four times a week. I do other strenuous things like shovel snow or replace my washer hoses which entailed pulling out my washer and dryer. That took five hours and was quite a workout! If you follow my blog, you know why I don’t go to gyms anymore.

I enjoy cooking and baking and am always ready to try a new recipe that I’ve never tried before or a new food. When I’ve come across something good or different, I post the experience on my blog. These posts are relegated to a monthly post called New Food Friday Flash. It used to be called New Food Friday when I had time to include more photos. The “Flash” variety signifies less photos which translates to spending less time on one post. Otherwise, those posts are the same. These are not the only food posts I write about though. By the way, if you are interested in something specific, you can always type in the Search field at the top of my blog!

Recently, I made a loaf of white bread. I know! I never made a loaf of plain white bread before! It turned out great! I also made a pineapple date nut bread. Wow! That came out surprisingly great! I didn’t expect that. I also made onion rye rolls for a second time. These were also very good. So good that I ate them for breakfast with raspberry jam! I know! Sounds gross but it worked! My goal is to find a recipe for a delicious, nutritious, bread or roll that I can make at a moment’s notice. I have not yet found it. Nothing compares to the Italian bread I had growing up in New York. When my sister and I went grocery shopping with our mom, half the loaf was gone by the time we got home!

How does my work differ from others in the genre?

My work differs from others in general in that I am a fanatic about not having mistakes on my blog. I double-check everything. I want my posts to read easily and I want it to be easy on the eyes with good white space. I like to back up my writing with some authority on the subject like the NY Times or WebMD, etc. and I will create a link to them so don’t skip over those links! They contain more valuable and/or interesting information. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to writing. I’m never completely happy with the results; it can always be better. But….there are only so many hours in the day and at some point I have to say enough already! My blog is different from others’ because I post about things that are good for your health. Everything I post must be advantageous to your health. This includes my audiobook section where I write reviews about great audiobooks. I believe that you need to include entertainment in your life for good health. All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy! Workaholics can burn out and that is not good for your health!

What constitutes a good health recipe? I wrote a post on how to make your own lemon curd. Another blogger asked how that could be good for your health when it is high in cholesterol? (It includes multiple egg yolks.) She didn’t read my post carefully enough because in it I compared my homemade recipe ingredients to the ingredients you would find on labels of store-bought lemon curd. So, yes they all are made with egg yolks, but my recipe didn’t have any artificial ingredients or unnecessary ingredients that you would find in a jar of lemon curd on a store shelf. Anyway, you could always use Eggbeaters in the recipe if you’re worried about cholesterol. One jar of lemon curd is not going to clog your arteries as long as you exercise and eat right! Also, I think I read recently that they don’t think eggs are the cause of high cholesterol as they used to believe. That’s the thing about the experts’ opinions – this week fill in the blank ________ will kill you, next week it will increase your lifespan. I say just eat a variety of foods and do so in moderation. Not to beat a dead horse over the lemon curd issue, (although I think it’s already too late for that), but the one jar I made was the only jar I ever made! That is very typical of my cooking and baking behavior. I crave the challenge of something new or different all the time!

Why do I write what I do?

I grew up in a multi-ethnic neighborhood and worked in multi-ethnic companies in NYC. I like diversity and it shows in my food choice. I will eat just about anything except bugs. You have to draw the line somewhere. I’ll cook Italian, Mexican, Greek, French, German, Moroccan, you name it, if it piques my interest, I’ll make it. Both my Italian grandmothers were good cooks. My mother cooked plainly: most meats were broiled. Nothing was fried. We ate lots of vegetables. So, these women influenced me. My dad had some special recipes too. His fritattas were legendary. I wrote about it and it was published in Organic Gardening and Farming. English grammar was very important to my mother, probably because her mother couldn’t write English. Apparently that importance was passed on to me.

I want to do what I can to awaken people to better health by making good food selections (I don’t like to use the word diet because it connotes restrictions) and choosing a good exercise program. It is alarming to me that so many are obese in America. Obesity in children is now epidemic in America. We adults have to set a good example for them. But it isn’t just about eating the right foods. Exercise is important too. I’ve been on the exercise band wagon for several decades now so it is firmly ingrained in my psyche. I don’t know if I can fully explain to you what I feel like when I skip a few days. It’s like I avoided a friend. That’s what exercise should be to you – your friend. Do we always love our friend? Hell no! Some days I say, “Not you again!” But once I get started, I’m all warm and fuzzy with my friend again.

How does your writing process work?

Words are my thing. For me it’s like falling off a log. Numbers and finances are another story. My brain turns to molasses when I’m dealing with numbers and finances. I can do it, but I’ll be groaning. Now that I’ve said that, there are some, very few in fact, words that I don’t like. One of them is the word “process.” I don’t know why but it makes me cringe. It must be a throwback from when I worked fulltime for a living. I remember this woman I worked with who was very difficult and would always use the word process. I would prefer to use the word “method” since it’s a word often used in psychology and psych was one of my majors in college….the “scientific method!” So, how does my writing method work?

Well, it’s hardly scientific. Or is it? If the method (steps) can be reproduced with the same results, that would be good scientific method. At least that’s what I vaguely remember from my classes. First, I have to get an idea. I get ideas from everywhere: cooking shows on television, cookbooks from the library, cookbooks at home, recipes online, recipes in magazines, newspapers, cooking segments on talk shows, books about food, foods at the grocery store, recipes in grocery store flyers, the list is endless. Then, I write down the idea.

I have a steno pad near my bed to jot down ideas.

Steno Pad for Night Table Notes

Steno Pad for Night Table Notes

I have post-it notes at the computer to jot down ideas.

Post-it Note Reminder on my Computer

Post-it Note Reminder on my Computer Screen

I have a TO DO list on my memory stick (USB) to jot down ideas.

USB Stick for Notes

USB Memory Stick for Notes

I have a college spiral notebook that I take with me to the library to jot down ideas.

Spiral Bound Notebook for Notes and Reminders

Spiral Bound Notebook for Notes

And then of course there is my brain which sometimes remembers things and sometimes…..

So far I haven’t run out of ideas but the thought does worry me a bit! Finally, I sit down at the computer and write. The stuff just flows out of me. I don’t believe in writer’s block. Sometimes I have word block and that drives me nuts. Sometimes I’ll want a specific word and it just won’t come to me. I can almost taste it! Thank God for Microsoft Word Dictionary Lookup! Those steps cover the food angle of my good health theme (not to be confused with a WordPress Theme).

As far as other topics related to good health, I feel that I can massage just about any topic to focus on the good health angle! Car trouble? Get your car repaired so you don’t get into an accident and therefore can maintain good health. I recently wrote about roundabouts! Wild animals loose in your backyard? Call animal control so you don’t get bitten thereby avoiding rabies or possibly death which is certainly not good for your health! Honestly, I watched a news report recently that showed people in Indiana who keep exotic animals on their property. We have a lot of folks doing this and it seems that some new laws are going to be passed making it safer for the public. Looking at the topic of good health in this way allows me to write on a multitude of topics so I don’t get bored and can continue to follow that challenge of something new or different that I tend to gravitate to.

That’s all there is to my method. I don’t think I left anything out. Questions? Comments? You know what to do!

My nomination for the Writing Process Tour is:

Kelihasablog

Keli writes warmly and about family-oriented topics, poetry, and topics of interest to her. She is also a photographer. Keli is a beautiful woman and a cancer survivor. She has a great sense of humor and puts up with my questions like, “Did you name your blog Kelihasablog after Steven Tyler’s song ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’”? She didn’t, but I can’t get the tune out of my head every time I see her blog.

Thank you for your thoughtful posts and comments. They keep me inspired.

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That’s not a snowstorm; THIS is a snowstorm!

28 Jan Snowplows

Wow, after all that hype about the biggest blizzard ever to hit New York and then what did they get? Eleven inches? Give me a break.

 

You often enough hear them talk about the snowstorm of ’78 too. But do you ever hear them talk about the blizzard of ’69? Nooooo. Everybody seems to have forgotten about that one. Well, I haven’t. I’ve got a long memory when I need to.

 

It was the Winter of 1969 and New York was hit with a brut of a snowstorm. What was new about this one? Mayor Lindsay forgot about Queens where I was born and raised. Queens was where the snow had buried cars and where snowplows were nowhere to be seen.

Snowplows

Mayor Lindsay forgot to disperse snowplows to Queens, NY in the blizzard of ’69

All Queens folks could talk about was how Mayor Lindsay forgot about Queens. I remember being at the bus stop on my way home from work after taking two trains to get to the bus station. There was a woman standing in line with me, waiting for the bus, cursing Mayor Lindsay because we didn’t receive snowplow assistance to help us dig out. If you want to read more about it, check out all these gory details.

 

When Lindsay finally visited, his limousine got stuck in the snow and the mayor was berated by angry residents. Served him right.

 

Snow was up to car door handles; with drifts, even higher. The photos speak for themselves.

The forgotten snowstorm of '69.

That’s me standing behind our buried car.

These photos are date stamped June of ’69 although I cropped these photos for this post.

Snowstorm of '69 pales in comparison to the snowstorm of 2015

View from our apartment window of the snowstorm of ’69

If the month date was accurate, that would really be the snowstorm that was! I think that’s when we had the photos developed. We were in no rush to reminisce on the event. We New Yorkers have to live up to our name of being blasé!

 

The snowstorm of 2015 in New York wasn’t a blizzard. The snowstorm of 1969, now THAT was a blizzard!

 

Although the snow is beautiful when it’s fresh, just remember that when you shovel it to use caution and take breaks – don’t overdo it. Eat a good breakfast and drink plenty of fluids before you go out there and have fun! It’s usually very sunny after a storm like this so enjoy the sunshine and the exercise!

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New Food Friday Flash – Crystallized Ginger

16 Jan Crystalized Ginger

I have come across a few recipes using crystallized ginger and I became curious about this product. I found a jar of diced crystallized ginger in the spice aisle at Meijer but it was too expensive. Around Thanksgiving, Meijer put out their biggest display of candied fruits that I’ve ever seen. Among them was a small container of crystallized ginger.Crystalized Ginger

The pieces were big and looked delicious! $2.99 for 4 oz. You know me, I couldn’t resist. Plus, one of my favorite cookies, when I have a cookie or two, is Ginger Snaps. Unfortunately, they just don’t make the ginger snaps that I like in these parts! So, lucky for you, I decided to make my own using crystallized ginger. Two recipes came inside the container: ginger snaps and ginger bars. I opted for the ginger snaps. That is how this post got selected for this month’s New Food Friday Flash.

 

But how did cookies get to be on a blog that purports to be about getting and maintaining good health? Give me a minute; I’ll come up with something.

 

OK, this cookie recipe calls for molasses. I use blackstrap molasses and it’s extremely high in iron. I don’t think there is anything out there that contains more iron. The recipe also calls for an egg. Eggs get a bad rap. They are good for you, especially Eggland’s Best eggs which I always use because they contain more vitamins and minerals than in regular eggs with double the Omega 3. Also, ginger is good for you. According to WebMD, Ginger contains chemicals that may reduce nausea and inflammation. Researchers believe the chemicals work primarily in the stomach and intestines, but they may also work in the brain and nervous system to control nausea. Click the link to learn more. The recipe also calls for cinnamon which adds sweetness and is good for you. There are no preservatives or unpronounceable ingredients in this homemade cookie recipe as you will undoubtedly find in a store shelf cookie.

 

Satisfied? Good! Here is the recipe:

 

Ginger Snaps

¾ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

¼ cup molasses

1 egg

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups flour

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon salt

4 oz. Paradise Crystallized Ginger, chopped coarsely (came with a 50¢ coupon)

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375°. Combine softened butter, sugar, molasses and egg, beat well.

Ginger Snap Batter

Ginger Snap Cookie Batter

Add chopped crystallized ginger pieces.

Diced Crystalized Ginger

Crystalized Ginger Diced

Mix dry ingredients together, add to wet mixture, mix well.

Crystalized Ginger added to Batter

Crystalized Ginger added to Batter

Chill for 1 hour. Form into 1” balls, roll in sugar, and place on greased cookie sheet, 2” apart.

Cookie Balls Rolled in Sugar

Cookie Balls Rolled in Sugar

Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Cookie Balls on Tray

Cookie Balls on Tray

Makes 36 cookies.

Ginger Snap Cookies

Ginger Snap Cookies Cooling

I think they taste great dunked in tea with honey and lemon.

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The Return – an Audio Book Review

10 Jan Library Books (sxc.hu - alko)

I’ve been listening to and writing reviews for audio books for 3 1/2 years now. Two of my favorite fiction audio books were The Swan Thieves, a storyline that visits France, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo immersing the listener in Sweden. The Return has become my third favorite audio book. It takes place in Mexico and Viet Nam. The common thread for me in these audio books is the different cultures. I am a culture aficionado.

I’m surprised author, Michael Gruber, isn’t as popular as John Grisham or Michael Connolly – authors whose names are household words. The Return is beautifully written and exceptionally performed by Jonathan Davis. It is a story with characters of depth. I demand better writing from myself when I listen to Gruber’s words.

The story begins in New York. The main character, Richard Marder, (sounds like martyr for a good reason and is addressed in the book) learns at the beginning of this tale that he has a brain aneurysm and could die at any time. It is inoperable. The only people who know this are Marder, his doctor, and you, the listener. His friends and family suspect that something is wrong, but they probably can’t be sure because he spent time in the Viet Nam war and they might attribute his behavior to those days even though any aftereffects never showed up before. Unbeknownst to them, he is now having flashbacks to those days, blaming their arrival on the thing in his brain he’s dubbed, “Mr. Thing.” Actually, there are two storylines; one going forward and one going back. The one going back are to his days in Viet Nam with his crazy buddy Patrick Skelly, and to his marital days with his now deceased Mexican wife, Chóle, the light of his life. Marder’s son blames him for her suicide; they are estranged. Marder also blames himself.

This sounds like a depressing story, but only at first glance. It’s inspirational, sometimes philosophical, with threads of religion, and at times, laugh out loud funny. Marder’s daughter, Carmel, provides some of the hilarity. She and Marder are close. She is also close to Skelly, who was a sort of substitute father while she was growing up, teaching her survival techniques that he learned in his career, taking her fishing, teaching her how to fight, how to shoot, skin, and cook deer, rabbit, and more. Marder, on the other hand, took care of the bedtime stories. Perhaps his busy schedule as a book editor of some note didn’t allow him the time to spend with her. Yes, Marder is cultured and well spoken, the opposite of Skelly who is loud mouthed, uncouth, frequently getting into drunken brawls and then rescued through a phone call to Marder, typically at 3:00 am.

Although seemingly different as day and night, they have some similarities. Neither man has money worries. Marder is rich thanks to the Apple stock he bought when it first came out. This is just another well-kept secret. He is a man full of secrets. So is Skelly, who claims to be a “security agent.” He is evasive about his work. They both have a fondness for guns.

Since much of the story takes place in Mexico, be prepared to hear many melodious names of cities there, lilting phrases, and names of the many characters, who take part in Marder’s extraordinary plan to defend his newly bought home, spread on a 277-acre island, from the drug lords who want to take it away from him. They want to develop the land with a casino. Marder has other ideas. He is impervious to the dangers. After all, what does he have to lose?

Jonathan Davis pronounces all the Spanish words and names impeccably. Is it any wonder since Davis was raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico? I did a little research to find that out because I was dying to know, as I am enthralled with his voice. He transitions from male to female voices smoothly and believably. Normally, I would not want to read or listen to a book about the Viet Nam war and I’m not that crazy about wars with drug lords. However, this story is so much more. For example, Peppa Espinoza, the news reporter, and Carmel are strong, female characters. Bravery, intelligence, and perseverance are not limited to the men.

I did not know what the story was about when I pulled the audio book off the shelf. I was interested in it because of the reader, Jonathan Davis. I came upon his name while listening to another audio book called Twisted Tree. It too, is a good audio book but is very dark and as you might guess, twisted, with perverted characters. I decided not to review it on my blog because the topic was too smarmy. The chapters in Twisted Tree are read by a variety of excellent performers; I did not know which one was Davis. All I knew was that his voice reminded me of Robert Redford. I knew it wasn’t Redford, but there is so much about Davis’ voice that has the same sound with a similar delivery: professional, cool, and speech that is somewhat clipped at times. On the other hand, that describes the Marder character. Anyway, who can resist Redford? Long story short, I tracked down Davis performing Gruber’s book, The Return. Why they picked such a bland title for such a meaty book is beyond me.

Therefore, ladies, for your listening pleasure, by all means, get The Return! There is romance, many forms of love, a hot, steamy bedroom scene, picturesque vistas, a multitude of well-described visual images, and some unforgettable dialog. In addition, men, there is action, arms, heroism, pretty girls, and adventure to knock your socks off. If you haven’t guessed by now, it is a thought-provoking story. It’s the kind of audio book that you won’t want to turn off so be prepared to let the bills slide, the housework go to hell, and the phone messages to go unanswered. Enjoy 17 ½ hours of this thriller on 14 CDs. You will never guess how it ends. Meanwhile, I will be searching for another audio book by the Gruber/Davis duo. Hasta luego!

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New Food Friday Flash – Lasagna with Mustard Greens and Garbanzos

19 Dec Tall Lasagna Slice

There are a lot of lasagna recipes out there and many of them have spinach as an ingredient. I didn’t have spinach on hand but I did have mustard greens growing in my vegetable garden as of November 1, 2014. The question was would their strong, peppery, mustard flavor overpower my lasagna? I was up for the challenge. My lasagna with mustard greens is the New Food Friday Flash recipe for this month. They may not be new foods, but they are a new combination! Its red and green colors make for a festive holiday dish!

 

Lasagna is a great dish loved by all and there are many versions of it such as lasagna with sausage, with zucchini, with precooked noodles, with spinach noodles, with cottage cheese instead of ricotta cheese, with meatballs, and the list goes on. The problem with a basic lasagna recipe is that there is little fiber in it. Vegetable lasagnas help Americans who eat little fiber. I wanted to create lasagna with a good amount of fiber.

 

I had two jars of tomato meat sauce with garbanzos in it in my freezer. The reason I put garbanzos in the sauce was for when I got tired of putting the sauce on pasta. By just adding a few tablespoons of chili spice I could easily make a chili out of the garbanzo meat sauce! I did and it was wonderful! I had plans for the two remaining 8 oz jars of meat sauce with the garbanzos. They were going into my lasagna!

 

I went out into my vegetable garden after we had a mild frost and picked a bowl of all the baby-sized mustard greens. They looked good! I rinsed them carefully and put them in a pan with about ½ cup of water and cooked them until the water evaporated. Then I minced them. I gave them a taste expecting a strong flavor. To my surprise, there was hardly any flavor! Maybe the frost had something to do with the lack of flavor, maybe because the leaves I picked were all small, maybe my taste buds went on strike – who knows? I knew the mustard greens wouldn’t overpower my lasagna. The combination of garbanzos and mustard greens added a good amount of fiber to this dish. All the cheeses added a good amount of calcium.

Lasagna with bits of Mustard Greens and Garbanzos

Lasagna with bits of Mustard Greens and Garbanzos

 

Ingredients

8 oz of regular cooked lasagna noodles (1/2 box)

16 oz ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/3 cup minced mustard greens

1 ½ cups grated parmesan cheese

8 oz mozzarella cheese sliced

2 8 oz jars of tomato meat sauce

1 cup (8 oz) tomato sauce (for bottom and top of dish)

1 teaspoon sugar

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

salt & pepper to taste

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix ricotta, minced mustard greens, egg and spices until smooth.

 

Pour ½ cup of the 1 cup tomato sauce on bottom of an 8” x 8” baking pan. Cover sauce with a layer of cooked lasagna noodles; a layer of the ricotta mixture; a layer of the sliced mozzarella (about 9 thin slices); a layer of the meat-garbanzo sauce. Repeat until all the ingredients are used. The top layer should be your remaining ½ cup of the 1 cup of tomato sauce and the parmesan cheese. This makes a 5-layer lasagna. It weighs a ton! Bake 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes for easier serving. This dish stays hot for about an hour and stays warm for several hours. It slices better the next day. It serves 6.

Lasagna Topped with Grated Parmesan

Lasagna Topped with Grated Parmesan

 

Meat Sauce Recipe

My meat sauce recipe is never the same so I can only give you a basic recipe. I use two 32 oz cans of Dei Fratelli tomato puree. If there is a sale on Carmelina San Marzano canned tomatoes, I will substitute it with one of the Dei Fratelli cans. You can taste the difference. I don’t eat beef and instead use ground turkey and brown it the same way you would beef in a little olive oil. Sometimes I add diced carrots, celery, onions, sometime not. Usually I add one clove of minced garlic. Sometimes I add bay leaves, or dried basil leaves and/or dried oregano. Sometimes I add thyme from my garden. If I have red wine on hand, I will add ½ cup to deglaze the browned meat. Usually I add a teaspoon of sugar, ½ teaspoon salt, some black pepper, and a dash or two of cayenne. Sometimes I add a chopped Serrano pepper. The main difference this time was that I added a can of rinsed garbanzo beans. They don’t add any flavor but they are creamy in texture and high in fiber.

 

Note to novice cooks: I once went to a potluck where a man brought homemade lasagna. He didn’t know that there was such a thing as pre-cooked lasagna noodles and regular noodles. He bought the regular noodles and didn’t boil them first. He put them in the lasagna dish and needless to say, it ruined the dish. The noodles were hard and the dish was inedible although some did their best to eat it so as not to hurt his feelings. I wasn’t one of them! Make sure you look at the packaging. The pre-cooked  noodles are less work, but you have to make sure you have a lot of sauce (extra) on hand because they absorb more liquid than regular lasagna noodles. The regular noodles have to be boiled and are slippery to work with. Sometimes they stick together so be sure to stir the pot often when they are boiling. I drained them and then rinsed them with cold water and left about ¼ cup water in the pot. I had no problems with sticking. I didn’t add any oil. I’ve used both types of noodles for lasagnas and don’t have a preference.

 

I divided the lasagna in portions and put three of them in the freezer for future meals. It freezes well and makes all the effort and pots worth it!

Tall Lasagna Slice

Tall Lasagna Slice or, The Leaning Tower of Lasagna

 

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Tags: cooking, recipes,baking , vegetables, mustard greens, garbanzo beans, fiber, calcium, lasagna

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for Some Levity

26 Nov Poking the Pillsbury dough boy

Please join me in remembering a great icon – the veteran Pillsbury spokesman. The Pillsbury Doughboy died yesterday of a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly. He was 71. Doughboy was buried in a lightly greased coffin. The gravesite was piled high with flours.

 

Dozens of celebrities turned out to pay their respects, including Mrs. Butterworth, Hungry Jack, the California Raisins, Betty Crocker, the Hostess Twinkies, and Captain Crunch.

 

His long time friend, Aunt Jemima delivered the eulogy, describing Doughboy as a man who never knew how much he was kneaded. Doughboy rose quickly in show business, but his later life was filled with turnovers. He was not considered a very “smart” cookie, wasting much of his dough on half-baked schemes. Despite being a little flaky at times, he even still, as a crusty old man, was considered a roll model for millions. Toward the end it was thought he would rise again, but alas, he was no Tart.

 

Doughboy is survived by his wife, Play Dough; two children, Jane and John Dough; plus they had one in the oven. He is also survived by his elderly father, Pop Tart. The funeral will be held at 3:50 for about 20 minutes.

 

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I figured since many of us would be baking for Thanksgiving that you would enjoy this. I can’t remember who sent it to me or when, but I’m glad I found it in my files!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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New Food Friday Flash – Passatelli

21 Nov Passatelli pasta

This recipe has been a long time coming because I have wanted to make my own pasta for years and now I have finally done that! Hooray! You know how it is, you have to have the correct ingredients on hand, you have to have the time to do it, you also have to have the right equipment/tools to make the pasta. Everything but the stars and the moon have to be aligned! Having the right equipment/tools was actually the biggest holdup for me. Plus, I wanted a recipe that sounded good. Passatelli pasta was all that I dreamed of and that is why this post is my choice for this New Food Friday Flash.

 

To whom do I owe my thanks for this recipe? Mary Ann Esposito of the Ciao Italia! program on PBS. Thank you Mary Ann!

 

Here Are the Tools You Don’t Need

You don’t need a rack to hang these pastas up to dry.

You don’t need a pasta machine to make the dough paper thin.

You don’t need a rolling pin to roll out the dough

You don’t need to buy a special stamp to stamp special designs on the pasta.

And gloriosky, you don’t need to knead the dough!

 

Here Are the Tools You Need

A Cheese Grater

 

I’m assuming you have a bowl, a spoon, and a pot!

 

Ingredients

½ cup + 2 tablespoons flour

¾ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1 cup toasted bread crumbs

2 eggs

1 ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1/8 – ½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Grate the cheese. I ended up grating too much but can you ever have too much Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese? I think not.

 

Add the flour. I made this recipe on a very damp, rainy day and had to add 3 tablespoons more flour to make a “rough” dough.

 

Add the bread crumbs. I grated bread crumbs a few days prior to making this recipe from an Italian artisan boule that I bought at Meijer.

Defrosting Artisan breadcrumbs

Artisan bread crumbs that I froze

It was very good and chewy, just how I like it but I had to sacrifice half the loaf so that I could make breadcrumbs out of it. It wasn’t easy because I wanted to smear it with butter and devour the entire thing! After I grated it, I put it in the freezer knowing that I would use it for something!

 

Add the lemon juice and the zest. I didn’t have a whole lemon to zest so I added a teeny bit more lemon juice.

 

Add the nutmeg. As you can see from the photo, I have enough nutmeg to last the rest of my life.

Grating nutmeg

Nutmeg and nutmeg grater

I bought this nutmeg online a few years ago and this is what they sent me along with all the other ingredients I ordered from an Italian supermarket in Cleveland called Gallucci’s. OK, I lied. You also need a tool called a nutmeg grater. But really, you could get away with using a regular grater or, heaven forbid, buy nutmeg already grated.

 

Add salt and pepper to taste. You don’t need much salt because the cheese is salty (and so is the bread) and we’re watching our salt intake, aren’t we? I only added ½ teaspoon. I don’t remember what Maryanne said was needed for the salt or for the nutmeg for that matter. I used only 1/8 of a teaspoon of nutmeg. (I’m saving them because I want to take some with me when I go. You know, like the Egyptians.) I’m kidding! Nutmeg is a strong flavor and I didn’t want it to overpower the Passatelli.

 

Gather all the ingredients into a ball. It will be “rough.” (Mary Ann’s words.) I took that to mean a shaggy dough. My dough was sticky so I slowly added up to 3 tablespoons more flour until it looked more “rough” to me. Cover it and put the dough in the refrigerator for 6 – 7 hours.

Ball of Dough to make Passatelli

My ball of Passatelli dough

 

After 5 hours I took the dough out of the refrigerator. (I’m sorry. I couldn’t wait.) I got my grater and using the BIG holes, grated some of the cold ball of dough. Now I ask you, how fun is that? I suppose it doesn’t have to be a ball shape. You could probably form it into a rectangle. Whatever is easier for you! When you have a pile of grated Passatelli, slide them into boiling homemade chicken broth and boil 3 minutes OR until the pasta floats to the surface.

 

I had 3 jars of homemade chicken broth on hand but you need 8 cups of broth and I only had 6 cups so I made more.

Frozen chicken broth defrosting

Frozen homemade chicken broth

I had some chicken bones I was saving in the freezer and I also had some meaty chicken backs and bellies, and made another pot of chicken soup. Now I had more than enough broth.

Broth for my Passatelli

Making more chicken broth

 

If you don’t want to cook the grated Passatelli right away, you can grate them and then put them in the freezer. If you do it that way remember NOT to defrost the Passatelli when you put them in the boiling broth. Just dump them frozen into the boiling soup broth and boil for 3 minutes OR until they float to the top.

Passatelli boiling in chicken broth

Boiling chicken broth with my Passatelli

 

Homemade pasta doesn’t need to cook as long as store bought pasta so don’t boil it too long or you will have mush.

 

Prior to putting my ball of dough into the refrigerator, I was thinking how to make other versions, such as:

 

Use other flours like semolina flour

Add other herbs like minced parsley or powdered dry sage

Add one more egg

Use one LESS egg

Add minced prosciutto (is that a possibility?)

Use a different cheese like Asiago

Add cooked, minced spinach or butternut squash

Boil/cook the Passatelli then scoop them out of the broth and sauté them in butter

 

It seemed my luck was holding out for this recipe because the weather was taking a temperature tumble. If I had made it one day sooner, I wouldn’t want to have eaten hot Passatelli in 79 degree weather! Last night cold winds blew all the heat away and today is damp and cold with temperatures expecting to go into the 20’s by the weekend, perfect for a hot bowl of Passatelli! Sometimes being a slave to the weather is a good thing!

 

The Surprises in this Recipe

When I grated the ball of dough, it looked as though it was too soft and that the Passatelli would all clump together in the pot of broth. Surprise! They separate and rise to the top when they are cooking! I was eager to taste the Passatelli and took a spoonful of the broth and pasta. Surprise! I had forgotten there was lemon in the Passatelli! It was a nice, light-flavored surprise taste. I also wasn’t prepared for the softness of the pasta. Surprise! This recipe would make a great soup for when you are sick in bed with a cold. A hot, nourishing chicken broth with soft homemade noodles that slide down your sore throat will make you better in no time! This medium size ball of dough makes A LOT of pasta so surprise! I thought with all the cheese I put in the recipe (remember, I put in too much?) it would taste cheesy. SURPRISE!

 

I think I remember Mary Ann saying that this was an “old” recipe and that she wanted to keep recipes like this alive. I’m all for that. Sometimes the old ways are better. Like heirloom seeds for the gardener, this recipe is a keeper for the cook! Let me know if you make this! Your kids will enjoy watching you grate the round ball of dough into pasta!

I grated all of it then cooked and ate half and I froze the rest.

Passatelli pasta

A delicious bowl of Passatelli pasta

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How an Inheritance can Fracture Your Family

12 Nov DaVinciS

After seeing how inheritance issues have left my extended family with hurt feelings and relatives not talking to each other anymore, I concluded that adult children should be treated equally when it comes to an inheritance. I came across an article by Jean Chatzky  a best-selling author and an award-winning personal finance journalist and thought I’d share it with you. Below are excerpts from her article. It opened my eyes. She quotes several experts in the field. I’ve added my own rebuttals below each of her 5 steps. I added a 6th step.

  1. Can you communicate openly? According to Detroit area elder law attorney Mark Accettura. “Estate planning is not a democratic process. It’s really the parent’s wishes,” he says. Parents should give kids a basic sense of where they stand financially — always noting that the situation can change if more money needs to be spent on their own medical care — as well as clear instructions about whom to contact and where important papers are kept.

***

Me: As someone who majored in Communications, I firmly believe it’s a miracle that any of us can understand what anybody says. Seriously. Yes, some of us are better at communicating than others, but you better be prepared for that good old “perspective” not to mention someone’s life experiences to throw you for a loop!

Here’s a test. Picture an apple. In fact, draw an apple and jot down all the details of your apple. Did you do that yet? Good! There are over 400 followers on this blog. Guess how many of you will have the same exact apple details? NOBODY! One of you will have a red apple, one of you will have a green apple, one of you will have a small apple, or a big apple, or a sliced apple, or a baked apple, or applesauce, etc. That test was our communication only about a simple apple.

guitargoa

The Big Apple

Answer this question. How many families have open communication? Aren’t families notorious for having “family secrets”? Don’t get me wrong, open communication is a great idea. If you can accomplish it, you’re way ahead of the game. Also, I might add, do you feel comfortable about telling your children where you stand financially? Sorry, I don’t. I might as well post my assets on my blog. Haven’t we been brought up never to talk about “religion, politics, and money”? Now, nearing our deathbed (or not), we’re supposed to tell our kids about our assets? That’s like telling our kids what sex positions we like. Does my son know my basic financial worth? I think so. Who can remember? A better question is, “Does he give a flying leap?”

  1. Are you treating each child equally? One of the most frequently asked questions by anyone leaving an inheritance is whether they have to treat the kids equally. Experts say it certainly helps.

“If you want to minimize fighting, leave it as equal as you possibly can,” says Accettura. That applies not just to assets but also to responsibilities for settling your affairs. “When parents appoint responsibility they’re making a statement as to who is worthy, capable, who they trust. It’s a final statement and it’s irrevocable, so it’s important to be concerned about people’s feelings.” He suggests that anyone capable should at least have a small role.

***

Me: Ah, this is such a subtle thing, appointing responsibilities but Accettura really nails it on the head when he talks about “a parent’s statement as to who is worthy, capable, and who they trust.” How many parents take this into consideration? It seems minor, but it’s about as minor as a walk across a minefield.

  1. Did you leave the decision making up to one child? Leanna Hamill, a Boston-area estate planning attorney, has seen parents with, say, a $200,000 life insurance policy name their oldest child beneficiary and trust him (or her) to divvy it up among the siblings. Big mistake.

“If you want all siblings to inherit equally, put them all down as beneficiaries,” she says. If you have jewelry, art or other items to bequeath, leave a list of who gets what, along with a method for dividing up whatever is left so that people can take turns calmly.

***

Me: Suppose one of your children is a Financial Advisor. You should have that child be the beneficiary and trust him or her to divvy it up. Right? Big Mistake in my opinion! Put them all down as beneficiaries and follow the rest of the advice of Hamill.

  1. Are you distributing unequally based on what you think you know about your children’s assets? There are reasons parents do this — perhaps one child earns significantly more than another, and therefore needs less — but it can lead to resentment, which is why, Hamill says, many people avoid talking to their kids about inheritances in the first place. At the very least, write a note to go with the will, she says. “Leave something that says, ‘I love you all equally. Here is why I am doing the distributions the way I am.'”

***

Me: This goes back to #1. Communicating AND my two cents about perspective. Does the parent really know the income/savings of each child or are they guestimating? If you distribute unequally, maybe you better get copies of their income tax returns first! You might be surprised! And who’s to say that the child who has more doesn’t lose half of it in the stock market or housing crash, earthquake, flood, or whatever, 10 minutes before you die? All the more reason to distribute equally. The only exception I see to this rule would be if you gave money to one child while you were alive.

  1. A trust might eliminate some uncertainty. If you want to make sure your children use the money wisely, consider putting it in trust with a few strings attached. Many estate planning attorneys recommend distributing the assets in chunks (typically one-third at age 25, one-third at age 30 and one-third at age 35).

The thinking is that with maturity will come better financial decision-making. You can also include a provision that if your child is going through some sort of substance abuse problem at that time, the distribution can be held to a later date.

***

Me: Wow! They surprised me with the mention of a child having a substance abuse problem. What are the chances that the child will be substance-abuse free by age 35 or 40 or 50! Tough decisions, very tough decisions. Fodder for making the decision to have only one child or none! Or, spending it all on yourself or giving it away to charities! That’s not so far-fetched so I added a Step 6.

  1. Don’t leave your children anything. The singer Sting, formerly of The Police who is worth over $300 million, stated he would not be leaving an inheritance to his children. Other wealthy parents who share this point of view are Bill Gates, Warren Oats, and Nigella Lawson, just to mention a few.

Leaving and/or receiving an inheritance should be good for your mental and physical health, but it isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s just the opposite. Proceed cautiously.

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Pumpkin Pie From a Pie Pumpkin (with Bourbon)

6 Nov Pumpkin Pie

Pie pumpkins were running amuck at my local Meijer but I was too busy to make a pie. About a week later, I had time to make a pie but I couldn’t find any pie pumpkins! Luckily, I spied three in the squash area next to the Butternut squash. I picked one of the three but they each looked good. I began wondering how I cooked pumpkin the last time I bought a pie pumpkin. I couldn’t remember.

 

I was watching P. Allen Smith’s Garden to Table program and he suggested roasting a pie pumpkin by first piercing it all over with a fork. I used a knife instead and roasted it for 45 minutes in my convection toaster oven. When it cooled, it was so easy to peel the skin off! I’ll have to remember the technique for when I bake Butternut squash which I do often. I had been peeling it with a paring knife. It’s a miracle I still have all my digits! By the way, this is an easy pie to prepare. I suggest you take out all your ingredients and place them on your counter so you don’t forget to add one. There are a lot of them!

 

But back to the pumpkin. I made a pumpkin pie from a recipe in my Good Housekeeping Cookbook called Pilgrim Pumpkin Pie that I followed loosely. The original recipe had no Bourbon. I used the crust recipe from my Cake that Thinks it’s a Pie recipe. I defrosted my dough completely before lining my pie pan.

 

Ingredients

1 9-inch unbaked piecrust

1 pie pumpkin (2 cups)

1 13-ounce can evaporated milk

2 eggs

½ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup sugar

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon ginger

½ teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

1 ounce bourbon

 

Directions

Wash then cook the pumpkin in your preferred way. Then break apart or cube the pumpkin in a large bowl beating the pumpkin with a mixer at medium speed with next 11 ingredients. Pour into pie crust. I find that every time I make this recipe, I have extra pie mixture. This time I froze the leftover. There is enough for a small pie. It will give me a chance to add more spices that I mention below.

 

The photo shows pumpkin pie and a Butternut squash because you can also make this pie using Butternut squash in case you can’t find pumpkin.

Pumpkin Pie

You Can Use Butternut Squash in Place of Pumpkin

Butternut squash is always available. Both are high in fiber. This recipe is helpful if you are trying to get your calcium requirements for the day; note the evaporated milk ingredient.

 

I was very generous with all the spices in this recipe. I didn’t level off anything because I wanted it to be a bit spicy. It was very flavorful, but I still wanted more spice! I caught an episode of America’s Test Kitchen while they were making gingersnap cookies. I love gingersnaps but, you know how it is, they just don’t make ‘em like they used to! ATK made the cookies with black pepper, cayenne pepper, two tablespoons ginger and two tablespoons grated, fresh ginger! Wow! That’ll wake you up! I wish I had seen ATK before I made my pie. I’ll  include more ginger and maybe some pepper too in my small pie! This pie keeps well in the refrigerator.

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