Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Mr. O-P


As you all know, Mr. O-P entered Hospice Care a while ago. I now have the sad task of telling you that on Saturday evening, June 25th, he passed away. I take solace in knowing that he was unaware that he wasn’t going to survive, and in the fact that I was able to care for him here at home until he took his last breath.

We have a long history together, beginning when I was his student in college, and then his researcher, and eventually his wife. Marrying someone twenty years my senior was a bold move, but one I will never regret because we had a marvelous time together, working in some of the most beautiful libraries around the world, and living in some truly amazing cities.

This is my favorite picture of him. It was taken when we were working at Yale and living in North Haven, CT in a house on 12 acres of land with four deer, dozens of turkeys, a resident skunk, and Gothic tower, erected by an artist proficient in metal sculpture. I miss him already.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Haystacks & Distressing Days


When I was a little girl, and when I was good (which, let's face it, was pretty darned often, I was a gem of a child), my mother used to make haystacks for me. I loved the chocolate and the crunch, and particularly loved that there was no baking and I could help out. The waiting for them to harden was often more than I could bear, but it was well worth it for the end result. I was thinking about these the other day when I was making another family favorite, Oriental Beef Casserole, lamenting the fact that I'd purchased a gigantic bag of chow mein noodles in order to take advantage of a sale.

So, in my continuing celebration of National Candy Month, today I made haystacks. I remember them being very sweet in my youth, largely, I think because of the overwhelming sweetness of the butterscotch chips. So I decided to make mine with semisweet chocolate chips alone, and add some brickle bits to get added crunch, and a bit of a toffee taste, without being cloying. Can you say winner? These are great. Now I'm thinking I may just need another bag of these noodles.

This is a great candy to make with the kids during the summer. Keep them in the fridge for a cool and crunchy snack.

There are variations to suit all tastes, so consider replacing the toffee bits with cocoa nibs, crumbled Clean Snax, mini chocolate chips, crushed espresso beans, or a special addition of your own.

Haystacks

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chow mein noodles
1/2 cup salted peanuts
2 tablespoons brickle bits

In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate and butterscotch chips, at 30-second intervals, stirring after each, until smooth. Stir in chow mein noodles, peanuts, and brickle bits until well coated.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a waxed paper or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until set. Yield: 8 clusters. Feel free to double, triple, quadruple…you get the picture.

I am taking a bit of a blog break. Thanks to the many of you who have written me notes and messages asking if I am all right.  Yesterday, Mr. O-P entered Hospice Care. It was a tough day. He has been ill for nearly three years now, and it has been a difficult road for us both. I need to take a bit of a break in order to get sleep. This week I have only had a combined 6 hours and am literally stumbling from exhaustion. I have also managed to lose 14 pounds in the past two weeks, so obviously I am not cooking or eating my good food.

As things settle, I will return. This blog and the entire blogging community have been great solace to me, and I find such peace and comfort in taking part.

Love to all and keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce

With Mr. O-P in the hospital this week with some serious ills, life has been difficult. There is not much time for cooking, but there is time for special and nourishing meals. In challenging times, it is important to treat yourself well, and maintain some type of routine if only in the ritual of cooking dinner.

This looks pretty fancy, I know, but it is really quite simple to prepare. We had some filets in the freezer, so I was sure to take one out and move it to the fridge the night before so it would be ready when I was. I kept the amount of sauce the same (which is really minimal, at best) even though just making one steak. If you are making this for two, you may just want to double it.

After patting it dry as per the recipe, I let it set on the counter for about fifteen minutes to get the chill off. The entire process took less time than the 45 minutes predicted, and I had a lovely, delicious, and nourishing meal for one. Few dishes are easier or more special than this one. I know that everyone has his or her burdens. Treat yourself well. Always. It makes a world of difference.
Filet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce
From epicurious.com

 1 slice bacon

1 small garlic clove, mashed to a paste

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 white mushrooms (about 1/4 pound), sliced thin

2 tablespoons Cognac or other brandy

2 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves

2 filet mignons, each about 1 inch thick

In an 8-inch skillet, preferable cast-iron, cook bacon over moderate heat until crisp and transfer to paper towels to drain. Pour off excess fat from skillet. Crumble bacon and reserve.

In skillet cook garlic in 1 tablespoon butter over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until liquid from mushrooms starts to evaporate. Add Cognac or other brandy and boil until nearly evaporated. Stir in water, lemon juice, and Worcestershire sauce and boil until sauce is thickened slightly. Transfer sauce to a small saucepan and stir in reserved bacon and parsley. Keep sauce warm.

Pat filets mignons dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. In skillet heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter over moderately high heat until foam begins to subside and sauté filets mignons 4 minutes. Sear sides slightly and turn filets over. Sauté 3 to 3 1/2 minutes more for medium-rare meat. Divide filets between 2 plates and spoon sauce over them.
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Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Red, White & Blue Salad with Fresh Strawberry Dressing

This salad is SO good and just perfect for the sultry days of summer, those patriotic holidays in particular because of the red, white, and blue. It is a snap to toss together using spinach, fresh strawberries, fresh blueberries, and a sprinkling of bleu cheese (or any crumbled white cheese of your choice, feta, for example). What knocks this out of the park is the fresh strawberry dressing. You'll need a small blender or processor in order to properly pulverize the strawberries, but the dressing, like the salad, goes together in a breeze. Make lots of this one. People are going to love it!
Fresh Strawberry Dressing

1/2 cup fresh strawberries, halved or quartered depending upon size
1/2 Tablespoon granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard

Place all ingredients into a bullet (or any similar) blender and whir for 30-45 seconds. Drizzle over salad and toss. Store any leftover dressing in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

This dressing is equally good on any type of salad that you enjoy, whether fruitful, or fruitless. :-)

Monday, June 6, 2016

Chicken Lombardy

Chicken Lombardy is not new. It fact, it is a dish that I have been having for years, but it is also one that I tend to forget about. This past weekend when a friend of ours, named Lombardi, gave us a call, I decided it was worth a revisit.

  I’d forgotten how quick and easy this is to put together. I seasoned the flour with lots of things, like paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and ample amounts of pepper, to give it lots of flavor. I served mine with fettuccini because I was out of thin spaghetti, although I far prefer the latter. Start your pasta water while you’re browning the chicken, and drop the pasta in when you slide the chicken dish into the oven. This way everything will be ready at the same time. This is a lovely, company worthy meal that is quick, easy, and stress-free.
Chicken Lombardy
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
½ cup flour
½ cup butter
1 cup sliced mushrooms
¾ cup Marsala wine
½ cup chicken broth
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly grease a 1-1/2 quart baking dish; set aside.

Place chicken between 2 sheets wax paper. With a heavy mallet or rolling pin, flatten each breast to a thickness of ¼”.

Season flour and place on a dinner plate. Dredge each chicken breast until completely coated, shaking off excess.

In a 10” sauté pan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Sauté breasts on both sides until golden brown (3-4 minutes). Do not crowd pan. Melt additional butter and repeat process if you have more chicken to brown.

Remove browned chicken to your prepared baking dish, overlapping edges of chicken. In the same pan you used to brown the chicken, sauté the mushrooms in the remaining 1/4 cup butter.

Sprinkle mushrooms evenly over chicken.

Stir wine, chicken broth, salt, and pepper into pan drippings in skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 6-8 minutes stirring occasionally. Spoon sauce evenly over chicken. Top with scallions and cheeses, and bake 15-20 minutes until bubbly.

Serve over rice or pasta with additional sauce spooned on top.


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Merry Monday

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Cookie Dough for Gifting

If you tend to not think about hostess gifts until you're walking out the door on your way to the party, only to have to stop at the liquor store or flower market along the way, you can now relax. Here is something you can make way ahead, and that will be more appreciated than any bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers.
The next time you make up a batch of cookies for yourself or your family, make a double batch. Bake up the one for you, and then roll the remaining dough into 1-1¼" balls, place them on a foil or parchment-lined cookie sheet, and pop them into the freezer for 30 minutes.
At the same time, grab one of those apothecary jars that you always seem to have in the back of your pantry taking up space, and place it into the freezer as well. 
When the cookie dough balls have frozen, place them into the chilled jar, put the lid on the jar (and top this with foil or plastic wrap if the seal is not a tight one), attach baking instructions (bearing in mind when you do that frozen dough is going to take a minute or two longer to bake than dough that is simply chilled), and return it to the freezer to lie in wait.
When you're heading out the door to your next party, simply grab a jar of cookie dough and be on your way. Who wouldn't love a gift like this?
For the recipe for these delicious chocolate chip cookies, go here.


This post is linked to:

Metamorphosis Monday

The Scoop

Inspire Me Tuesday

Wow Us Wednesdays

Home Sweet Home

 Feathered Nest Friday

Foodie Friday and Everything Else Link Party


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June is National Candy Month

Welcome to the month of June and one of the sweetest holidays of the year, National Candy Month! Do I have your mouth watering? If so, you’ll be happy to hear that you’re just minutes away from indulging in sweet, crunchy, or chocolaty deliciousness. Some of these recipes take more time and effort than others, but I’m sure you’ll find one to sink your teeth into, so to speak. Click on the name beneath the picture, and it will take to straight to the recipe and, no doubt, sweet tooth heaven. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Bark