Wine and Dining 

Vince shocked me a few months ago when the announced as we drove to lunch in Visalia one beautiful October day that I didn’t like to cook. I had my defense ready.

“I don’t mind cooking.”

Needless to say I lost that argument before it even got warmed up.

Actually I’m a good cook, but Vince is right, if I have a choice of filing, making the bed or writing, I’m not at the stove.

So tonight, inspired by my friend and esthetician Carrie at Creekside Day Spa in Visalia, CA, I decided to wine and dine my husband. Here’s how she explained it to me. First you relax, and don’t expect to have everything done at the same time, and drink wine with every course.  All my life I have not been a wine drinker, so my sophistication level 0. The upside to that is that I have a strong liver and not as many dead brain cells as I might have had otherwise.  But for this evening we started with a glass of wine while I serve a delicious appetizer.

There is no recipe for this, and I don’t know what you call it, but the ingredients are chopped vegetables fried in olive oil until some of them are crispy. I used brussel sprouts – usually not anyone’s favorite, but trust me on this  – you will eat more than you should. Along with that I added in onions, red cabbage, canned corn, broccoli,celery, topped with kale. I sprinkled the mixture with chili powder, salt and pepper and served it topped with romano cheese. I toasted an English muffin topped with the same cheese, and we spooned the vegetables onto the bread, and downed it with a pink moscato.
  This process was somewhat messy and took about 20 minutes, so I had everything started before he came home. I think Carrie’s idea was to have both partners working together in the kitchen. It’s taken us twenty years to work politely together in the kitchen. (He’s bossy, and I leave if he irritates me too much. Then he leaves, and I come back and do it my way. We are working on our social skills, but today I did it my way.)

We ate course #1 then went out into the yard and did a few chores while the soup heated in the crock pot. I used most of the same vegetables in the minestrone soup, so that meant that I didn’t have to chop twice. I added canned tomatoes, black beans and carrots to the soup, which I didn’t use in the appetizer. I have never made minestrone soup because I don’t usually like it, so I looked online, and discovered a recipe, and altered it to match my groceries. It called for white beans, but I didn’t have them. In my older age, I have no compunction about substituting. I can remember being tied to recipes thinking that if I didn’t follow them to the tee, the kitchen god would kick me out of the kitchen, and I’d never have to cook again.  The soup cooked during the entire appetizer process, then I  tossed in the penne pasta for about 10 minutes.
  We topped the soup with Romano cheese too, and let it drip down our chins. A little wine, and who cares?  We chose a red moscato to go with this course. While Vince worked in the yard a bit, I finished cooking the meat sauce for the lasagna.  That was the joy to this process. We didn’t rush through dinner. In fact it wasn’t even dinner time when we started.

Not very fancy, but easy to clean up. The plates came from Target, and my car-guy hubby like them better than our fancy Christmas plates.

I make lasagna at Christmas and Thanksgiving because my Italian husband prefers it to turkey. Can you imagine anyone preferring anything to turkey at Christmas?


When we shopped this week, he snuck some hot sausage into the cart. He wanted it chopped up and mixed into the hamburger. (blick, blah) I can see it here because it’s a little more orange, but I hope I can’t taste it.

recipe book copyI love this little recipe book. The women at our Nazarene Church in Cottage Grove had a going away party for my first husband and me when we went to Bible College in Colorado Springs, and this was their gift to me.  (Even though they knew I didn’t like to cook – pastor’s wives HAVE to cook, don’t they?) This recipe came from one of my best friends, Jan Norris.
Italian Delight copySee it looks pretty good. I didn’t follow the recipe perfectly, though. It has sausage and onion in it, but no garlic, and I don’t measure. The cheesy stuff consists of sour cream, cream cheese, and I used cottage cheese, too, but the recipe doesn’t call for that either, and it does call for green onions, which I never use. I sometimes use ricotta cheese because it’s more Italian, according to Vince.
  Once you get the cheese mixture combined you just have to layer it with the noodles. There are two layers of each.

Finally you add the cheddar cheese. This is the most time-consuming of the process. I don’t like to use a food processor, but I don’t have a good reason for that.

The only problem with Carrie’s great idea is that now Vince and I are way too full, to eat the main course tonight. But it’s done now, 4 hours after I started cooking.

So, you want to come to dinner?  I have plenty.  :) I also have a mess to clean up. Hmmm maybe that’s why I don’t “like” to cook.🙂

Wishing you and yours the merriest Christmas. Love you all, and wish you were here to taste my dinner.🙂

Monday: Ask Marsha: Making Italian Sauce

Vince’s Dad was the sauce maker in the family.  Every Sunday he made sauce.  We would go to visit, and Dad would always send us plenty of sauce home with us, frozen and packaged in perfect serving sizes.  Every time we came, he would say, “I got a special buy on tomato sauce.  You have to use X Brand of tomato sauce.  That’s what makes it so good.”  So here is Vince’s and my version of Dad’s recipe.

Vince's sauce
I know you are getting tired of this picture, but it is my only one. It always looks the same. I always use this pan, and this spoon. The meatballs are always this size.

Tomato Sauce

  • 4 cans of tomato sauce – Costco brand (he he – it doesn’t matter)
  • 1 can of tomato paste
  • 5 cans of water – 1 for each can of tomato anything
  • 1-2 fresh basil leaves from the garden
  • 1 bay leaf from the Costco jar I’ve had for at least 10 years – maybe more

Start it cooking, it has to cook for hours.  If you put less water, you can’t cook all that water out of it.  So be sure to put the water in so you have to start making the sauce at least 3-4 hours before you want to eat it.

Meat balls

  • 1 pound of hamburger (I don’t worry about lean or not lean, but I don’t put the grease in the sauce.)
  • 1 c Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • salt & pepper ( I just do about a teaspoon)
  • 1 tsp mint (secret ingredient – DON’T TELL ANYONE ELSE!)
  • 1 tsp oregano (Dad didn’t use this, but I do sometimes.)
  • 1 tsp basil

Smoosh them all together, roll them into balls, and you get just enough meatballs to cover a medium size pan.  Fry them over a low heat until they are lightly brown on all surfaces.  You can’t go off and blog for a bit while they are cooking or your husband will come in and hover over them like they are going to hatch.  He might anyway because they do smell delicious.

Spoon them into the sauce trying not to splash tomato sauce all over your clean white blouse.  The meatballs need to cook through and through.

Other Meat

  • 1 large package of hot Italian sausage ( I used to use mild, and nobody objected.)
  • Country Style Spare Ribs (I never used these, but Vince did, and he likes it better.)

Cut the sausage.  Dad used to cut the sausage into small chunks because he thought that made the flavor come out better.  Vince cuts them into two chunks.  I’d leave them out if it was up to me.  In the meatball pan brown the sausage until it is light brown on every surface then spoon them into the sauce.  They need to cook for hours as well.

spare ribs

Next, cut the spare ribs into chunks and brown them leaving the fat on them.  When they are light brown, then put them in the sauce as well.  Discard the grease unless you want heart troubles.  If you are taking your medicines, then go ahead and pour the grease into the sauce.  I don’t.

The rest is up to father time.  The meatballs start screaming at Vince after about two hours.  “Get us out of here!  It’s hot!  I’ve been in this tomato bath long enough!”  He caves every time, and stands bent over the pot with a meatball on a fork and tomato sauce dripping into his cupped hand – like no one is going to find him if he doesn’t move away from the stove!  After he has eaten a couple, we cook them for another hour or two so he can replenish his appetite, and then we start the pasta.

mostaccoli

Vince’s sister knows exactly how much pasta each person will eat, and sets the timer to the precise number of minutes.  I just throw in about a half a box of pasta.  Then, as if she doesn’t trust the timer, asks Vince to try the pasta to see if it is al dente.  It always is.  We both have left overs, so I don’t think it matters.  The good news is that, to the true Italians in the family, they all THINK the pasta is better the next day.  (Lucky for me – I made too much!)

Once the pasta is al dente you pour off the water, and ladle in two large spoons full of sauce and stir the pasta, which has to be Mostaccioli (I like Angel Hair pasta.)  After that, you serve each person the set amount of pasta, and ask how many meatballs and other kinds of chunks they want.  Cindy and I always have two meatballs.  Vince has two to start with some sausage and other chunks.  Spoon more sauce over the top.  Completely cover the entire mixture with parmesan cheese, grated, not Kraft.  Costco brand is ok.  Serve with green salad or three bean salad and garlic bread.  Be sure to pinch off all the little slimy skins on the garbanzo beans when they come out of the can before you add them to the salad. Plan to sleep for an hour after you finish eating the chocolate cake or homemade cookies and ice cream for dessert.

pasta dinner
Oops we used the curly pasta. Vince likes that kind, too. I like the appetizers. Want to know how to make them?

Sorry for the blurry pictures. Usually I’m in much too much of a hurry to eat to bother with pictures.  I guess my hands were shaking!  :)

Bread is less important.  We only had English muffins this Sunday.  Add butter and garlic and anything works!  :)

So that’s it.  You know all my secrets.  You know all Dad’s secrets.  You are now officially Italian, like I am.  :)

What do you want to talk about next week?

Pike Place Market

Traveling to conferences often allows attendees the opportunity to explore new places.  National Council for the Social Studies moves their conference each year to a different part of the country allowing social studies teachers to learn geography as well as history, civics, economics and all the social studies.  In Seattle I ate in some top Diners and Dives restaurants, rode to the top of the Space Needle, got lost in downtown several times, and best of all, went to the Pike Place Market.

Outside the market you needed an umbrella, which I had left at the top of the Space Needle the night before, but inside, the weather was perfect.  I hadn’t carried my Canon in the rain, so these pictures all came from my iPhone.

Since we had just eaten lunch, the flowers attracted us at first.  Bouquets ranged from $5 – $15.  This one was $10, I think.  We wondered how they sustained themselves, but would have bought at least one bouquet if we weren’t going on the plane hours later.

Honey Crisp apple grown in Washington

Free samples abounded, and these Honey Crisp apples were sweet and crunchy, just the way I like apples.  All the varieties of apples came from Washington, but other fruits and vegetables came from all over.  One item we asked about came from Delano, just south of us in Kern County, California.

 

Although fruits and vegetables provided the most color, while fish throwing attracted the biggest followers.  I tried to capture the fish in motion, but clicking at exactly the right time challenged me.

We saw lots of fish eyes, oozy clams, live oysters, and tasted smoked salmon jerky at $39 + a pound.

Razor clams oozing out of their shells brushed with sand.
Mary advocates for purchasing sustainable fish, and organic vegetables.

After the fish festival, Mary wanted to experience the shoe museum which meant a pay a quarter, peek through a lit window for about a minute, and have your picture taken outside the painted window display.

Robert Wadlow’s size 37AA shoe
Come one. Come all. Step right up, and put your quarters in. These shoes will astound you.

You can buy anything you might need at this outdoor market, and people come from around the world to do so.  How does this compare to markets in your city or town?  Did you like it?

 

 

Sunday Post: Surroundings

This challenge seems particularly vague to me.  Everything surrounds everything.  Nothing exists in a vacuum except the dirt and dog hairs from my carpet.  We can choose to surround ourselves with wonderful music, (or noise), beauty, good weather. and pleasant people. Or we can be forced into uncomfortable surroundings out of our control, or we can accidentally fall into uncomfortable surroundings.  Surrounds also provide good fodder for complaining, as in my internet surroundings this past two weeks.  I think I’ll go with pleasant surroundings, if you don’t object.  Unpleasant ones might be more interesting, but then I don’t claim to be interesting, just alive.

Good friend surrounded by good art enveloped in a surrounding of peace

Surrounded by tasty tacos

As wonderful as beautiful physical surroundings are, however,  if I am surrounded with good people, wherever I am, even on the phone, internet or in person, I am blessed.