Tuesday, February 26, 2019

A Year of the Pig Table to Enjoy All Year Long

After I did last week’s post on my hutch, and saw how many piggy things I actually had, I thought I owed it to myself to put together a “Year of the Pig” table. Yes, I know Chinese New Year is over, but it will be Year of the Pig all year long, and this whimsical table can work year-round as well, particularly if you’re serving Chinese food.
The base of this table is simply yardage of fabric. I love this fabric, and cannot tell you how many times that I have used it, including at my mom and dad’s anniversary party years ago. I bought enough so that I would not only be able to cover the table, but make napkins as well, and you see them here in a pig napkin holder.
The white pig bowls are a new addition this year, and can be used in a variety of ways. They are oven safe, so can hold a delicious casserole (See Meal Plan Monday #10 for casserole ideas.), can be piled full of various forms of citrus fruit, or used as I have done here, lined with a napkin and holding a loaf of freshly baked Outback Steakhouse Bread (You can find that recipe here.).

I love the centerpiece, because like so many others, I have fallen onto the pitcher bandwagon. All three pitchers were a local purchase, from a favorite shop called The White Rabbit. They are reasonably priced, so you may want to check out their website
here (I am in no way affiliated, I just love their shop.).
  Be whimsical, be fun, but most of all be yourself when you set a table. Allow your personality to shine through. Everyone will love it!
The alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies) add a soft touch to the center.
Each place setting is layered with first, a gold placemat, then a rhinestone-studded red charger, topped with lovely white plates, and then a chalkboard pig name holder.
Bamboo flatware is from Crate and Barrel, as well as the small white soup bowls, and Asian soup spoons. The tiny fish plates will hold pats of butter.
The Asian glassware I made myself and you can read about that here.
The two wooden pig bowls, stacked one on top of the other, I bought at a shop in Austin, Texas when Mr. O-P and I were working at the Harry Ransom Library at the University of Texas. The shop was going out of business so I got a great price. You can find them
Chopsticks are always fun, and you can get those
inexpensively here on Amazon. I used to be able to pick up a single grain of rice with chopsticks, but these old hands don’t work as well as they used to, still, I can manage to devour a noodle bowl, the Spicy Peanut Noodles that I made last week in particular.

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Monday, February 25, 2019

Meal Plan Monday #12 - 30-Minute Meals

I am fully embroiled in the aftermath of all that is involved in losing a loved one. As a consequence, I am exhausted. If truth be told, it is a struggle just getting out of bed. But it is important to do so, and to be grateful for each day, so I soldier on. Cooking has taken a bit of a back seat, however, so this week is all about 30-Minute (or less) meals.

Tuesday – Whatever GrubHub has to offer

Wednesday -
Busy Day Cashew Chicken, rice, fortune cookies

Thursday – Dinner out with the girls.

Friday –
Scallops with Capers, Lemon, and Basil over angel hair pasta

Saturday – Steak with Peppercorn Sauce, baked potato, broccoli

Dad received so many lovely floral arrangements that I thought I would do a table or two featuring one or more of them. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Outback Steakhouse Bread ABM Copycat

The recipe for Outback Steakhouse Bread seems to be going around. I found it on friend, Linda’s, blog, My Sew Called Quilts. There are a variety of adaptations of this delicious bread, so I decided to add my own by coming up with an ABM (Automatic Bread Machine) variety. If you don’t own a bread machine, get one! I suggest this one, that is a dream to use and economically priced. It is so much easier to just dump ingredients into the bread machine and walk away, than it is to get out the heavy stand mixer, switch attachments midway through, and then have to deal with cleanup.
I had made this bread the week before dad passed away, hoping to take a loaf to him. He would have loved it. Make some for yourself, and share with the ones you love.
Outback Steakhouse Bread ABM Copycat
Adapted from My Sew Called Quilts

1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
3 tablespoons
3 tablespoons
1 large egg
2 cups
whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 heaping tablespoon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1 tablespoon yeast

Place ingredients into the work bowl of your bread machine (I have this one.) in the order suggested by the manufacturer. (I have listed the ingredients in the order suggested by mine.) Set machine on “dough” setting and press “start.”  When machine has completed the dough making process (usually 90 minutes), Place dough in greased bowl and cover; let rise until doubled, an hour or more. Shape into rounds or rolls and let rise until doubled, 45 minutes or more. Bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes for loaves or 20 minutes for rolls.

Makes about 3 medium-size rounds or 16 rolls.
I made three loaves. You can make loaves, one big loaf, or a pan of rolls.

I decided to make cuts in the top of two of the loaves as an experiment.

I loved the way the cut loaves looked.

Another fabulous (and fabulously easy) bread for the bread machine is this Holiday Bread.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Come See the Hutch

When I first gave you a glimpse of my hutch (that you can see here), someone asked me if I was ever going to be showing the entire thing.
I had planned to do that long before this, but the light comes streaming in through the windows so brightly that it is quite difficult to photograph. I managed to capture a couple of good ones today, and thought I would share them with you.
This is the Tucker Wall Unit from Pottery Barn. It may not be for everyone, but it is just perfect for me.
All of my fun little goodies are in the hutch, and it pleases me to look at them.
I like to change it up with the seasons, and this year I am giving some thought to Chinese New Year. It really played right into my hands with 2019 being the year of the pig.
I have no idea why I have as many piggy things that I do, I never gave any thought to collecting pigs, just somehow accumulated them. (I didn’t realize until after I wrote this post that I had failed to photograph a number of my pig casserole dishes, but that will have to be for another time.) And I think I’m going to be needing these.
Because I’m showing you the hutch, I thought I would also take this opportunity to show you the chandelier that number two son gave me (and installed) for Christmas. The existing one was pretty awful, and it always bothered me. My son knew that, so he asked me last Christmas if I would like a chandelier for over the dining table. When I responded in the affirmative, he asked me what I had in mind. He knows me well, so I told him this: “You pick it out, but keep in mind, the weirder the better.” This is what he came up with and I love it. Steampunk to the max! 
 I hope you enjoyed this little tour. By the time you read this post I will have probably changed things up again! :-)

Shared with Tablescape Thursday

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Monday, February 18, 2019

Meal Plan Monday #11 Dad’s Favorites

As you read this, I am preparing to bury my beloved Dad. You all have read a lot about him on the blog, and I can tell you that he was really a special man. Sadly, last week, on the sixth anniversary of my mother’s passing, dad took a tumble down the stairs, fractured his skull, and sustained a traumatic brain injury from which he did not recover. He passed away with me by his side the following afternoon. I cannot tell you how devastating this has been for me, but I’m sure you all know the pain.

So this week, for Meal Plan Monday, I am going to do favorite dishes of my dad. He was always one to lavish a compliment when it came to a good meal, or rich dessert.

These are the things that he enjoyed the most.

Saturday –
Oven Chicken Kiev, Wild Rice, Smothered Green Beans, Pie

I will not be doing a tablescape for this week, but will have a centerpiece paying homage to dad that I will share later.

Tell that special someone that you love them today.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Spicy Sesame Noodles with Peanuts

I thought I would round out the two-week celebration of Chinese New Year with this tasty noodle dish. After all, who doesn’t like noodles? It’s Asian pasta! This recipe looks more difficult than it actually is. I absolutely love it, and I kick up the heat on mine so that it is really spicy. I suggest a quarter teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes, but you can scale that back if you like. This dish is equally good cold as it is warm and I don’t know anyone who hasn’t loved it.
Spicy Sesame Noodles with Peanuts

1/2 lb. linguini
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons
low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon peanut butter
2 teaspoons
Sriracha, or to taste
1” Melissa’s fresh ginger, grated
2 tablespoons
sesame oil, divided
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup shredded carrots
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup peanuts, rough chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cook linguine according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine brown sugar, soy sauce, peanut butter, Sriracha, and ginger; whisk to combine; set aside.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon oil, and heat slightly. Add beaten egg and red pepper flakes, and stir to scramble the eggs. Once cooked, set aside with pasta.

Return stockpot to stove, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add carrots, mushrooms, and garlic. Sauté over medium high heat for 5-6 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through.

Turn heat down to low, add pasta and eggs back to pot, then pour the sauce mixture over the top. Toss well to coat pasta
and vegetables with sauce. Remove from heat, add peanuts, green onions, and cilantro; stir to combine.


A different kind of noodle bowl is this Easy One-Skillet Beef and Broccoli Ramen.

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Thursday, February 14, 2019

Mandarin Salad

With Chinese New Year coming to an end for 2019 on the 15th of this month, I thought it would be fun to share a few appropriate dishes. No, the salad has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese New Year, but the word “ mandarin” in the name made it appropriate enough for me. This recipe goes back to the ‘70s. My mother made it frequently, and everybody always enjoyed it, even salad snobs like the often-picky Mr. O-P really liked this salad.

One of the reasons that it is so universally liked is that it is light and refreshing, and goes very well with a variety of meals, particularly those that are a bit on the heavy side. You might turn up your nose at iceberg lettuce (reference the picky Mr. O-P comment above), but you shouldn’t here. The crunch of the iceberg lettuce along with the celery is quite pleasant, and offsets the citrus-y sweetness of the oranges, the peppery kick of the scallions, and the wonderful toffee chewiness of the almonds. The dressing is flavorful, but not overpowering, particularly if you happen to use too much. In this case you simply cannot.
Mandarin Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce
2-3 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
1 15-oz. can Mandarin oranges, drained

Mix above ingredients together in a large bowl. Add dressing, toss, and garnish with almonds. Serve immediately.

1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons
rice vinegar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Few gratings fresh black pepper
3 to 4 drops
hot sauce
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Mix above ingredients together in a mason jar, put the lid on, and shake for all you’re worth. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.

1/2 cup
slivered almonds
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Stir almonds and sugar together in a skillet over low heat until sugar melts and almonds are a light toasty brown. Remove from pan to plate and allow almonds to cool slightly; break into clusters.

*To see a tutorial on this, click here.

Another delicious use of mandarin oranges is this Thai Chicken Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Not Quite Cleveland Heath’s Brussels Sprouts

On the east side of St. Louis in the state of Illinois lies a town called Edwardsville. It is home to many things including a restaurant called Cleveland Heath. Cleveland Heath is good quality indeed, and is known for their Brussels sprouts. I find this significant. How many restaurants do you know that even serve Brussels sprouts, let alone are known for them?

Recently, their recipe appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and I cut it out. When I read the recipe I saw that their beautiful, fresh Brussels sprouts were fried in cooking oil. Blasphemy! I’m not a fan of anything fried in oil. They also wanted you to clean them (of course), halve them, fry them, flip them…this is way too much trouble for the everyday cook.

Because I find Brussels sprouts to be tremendously good simply roasted, and Melissa’s to be uniformly small and tender, I combined my roasted version and favorite brand of sprout, with their sauce, and came up with the perfect combination of the two.
Not Quite Cleveland Heath’s Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from Cleveland Heath, Edwardsville, IL 

8 oz. fresh Melissa’s Brussels Sprouts
1 T. good olive oil
Salt and freshly ground cracked pepper

2 T. good
olive oil
1 T. fresh lemon juice
Melissa’s medium shallot, finely chopped
1 T.
2 T. freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400° F. Toss Brussels sprouts in oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.

While sprouts are roasting, make sauce; set aside.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, and capers. Toss with roasted Brussels sprouts, salt, and pepper to taste. Place into a serving dish, top with Parmesan cheese, and serve hot.

*This sauce was so tremendously good, by the way, that I made some up separately to use to dip Italian bread. Yummy!

For a more elaborate use of Brussels Sprouts, try Angel Hair Pasta with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Malt & Vinegar Smashed Potatoes

You will doubtless find many people who don’t like vegetables, but few of that group who don’t like potatoes. I mean, what’s not to like about a potato? It’s inexpensive, nutritious, and so incredibly versatile, that you can use it to make all kinds of dishes from snacks and appetizers to breakfast dishes to main dishes, breads, and even desserts.

This is an easy way to deal with the buttery deliciousness of Melissa’s Dutch Baby Yellow Potatoes. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like these, and I have served them at brunch as well as at dinner. They also make a great finger food when you’re serving nothing but snacks. They pack a lot of flavor for such a small amount of work. I used
this meat mallet to flatten the potatoes and it worked very well (Don't get overzealous or you'll mash them to bits.).
 Malt & Vinegar Smashed Potatoes

1 1.5-pound bag Melissa’s Baby Dutch Yellow Potatoes
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Malt & Vinegar Salt*
Freshly ground pepper
Parmesan Cheese

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place potatoes and kosher salt in a large saucepan of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain potatoes and place on a foil-lined sheet pan. With a potato masher, press each potato until it's about ½" thick. Be careful, or you’ll make a right mess. Toss potatoes with the olive oil, Malt & Vinegar Salt, and lots of pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, turning once, until the skins are crispy. Sprinkle the
potatoes with bit more salt and dust with Parmesan. Roast for another 2 to 3 minutes until the cheese is hot.

Serve them with sour cream, ranch dressing, chopped chives, chopped scallions, applesauce, and extra salt, and a bottle of Malt Vinegar. These are so good that it’s hard to stop eating them, so you might want to make a double or triple batch.

*I got this from Williams-Sonoma. If you don’t have one near you, you can buy Malt & Vinegar Powder and add sea salt of your own.

If you prefer potato chips, you can make your own. See the recipe here.

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