Saturday, April 29, 2017

cookbook review - one pan & done

Who doesn't like to make delicious meals using just one sheet pan, cast iron skillet, or baking pan? I found this cookbook to be full of delicious, healthy recipes that are simple enough for weeknight dinners, yet impressive enough to serve to guests.

From starters, snacks and sides to breakfast, lunch, dinner and even dessert, this cookbook covers it all. There's even a chapter on vegetarian main dishes.

Each recipe has a short description, the list of ingredients (none of which are obscure), and the instructions. Best of all, most of the recipes have full page photos.

The author, Molly Gilbert is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, former cooking instructor and private chef, and former recipe tester for the kitchen of Saveur. She's also a food blogger at Dunk and Crumble

I've made a few recipes from this book and look forward to trying more. Definitely a thumbs-up cookbook!

I received One Pan & Done from Blogging for Books for my honest, personal opinion review.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

antiquing, a new furry friend, and grilling

Every winter, me, my mom and aunt make our annual trek to the antique mall a couple of miles from my house. It's a great place to explore and treasure hunt when it's bitter cold and we're stuck indoors. This year, we weren't able to get together on a Saturday in winter for various reasons. We finally found ourselves there this past Saturday. This is me and my little mommy. :-)

I found a few treasures: for one, this yellow cat pitcher. It's in the little nook above the range and microwave.

I also came home with this metal shelf and the mini pitcher in the middle. Right now the shelf is on my kitchen wall. We didn't want to make any holes in the newly painted wall, so I used a 3M sticky hook, but I think it looks tacky. I'm going to look for a pretty, decorative hook at Hobby Lobby. Nail holes, be damned!

Sunday, I drove out to the south side of Chicago to visit with my cousin before having to pick up Brian at the airport. He was in Los Angeles, CA for five days, visiting his sister.

I saw these flowers growing underneath my cousin's lilac bush and I asked him what they were. He said his mother planted them many years ago and that they were bluebells. So pretty!

Sorry for the lousy JR. He showed up on my cousin's doorstep last week. He's such a love, that when I was trying to take his photo, he kept coming up to my phone and rubbing it. He's already made himself right at home in my cousin's house, sleeping in his bed and on a favorite chair in the living room. My cousin's previous kitty, Grayce passed away last year and my cousin has been heartbroken. JR is just what my cousin needed. It's funny...Grayce was also a stray that showed up at my cousin's house. And my cats were strays that appeared at my door, too. I think they know who the cat lovers are.

Meanwhile, Brian came home to beautiful, sunny weather and with a couple more days off work, broke out the power washer and started tackling all the dirty stuff outdoors.

Brian said he couldn't believe how much the trees and flowers blossomed in those few days he was away. In fact, just today, our lilacs started to open.

The clematis has already climbed 3/4 of the way to the top of the trellis and has flower buds.

And we were able to grill for the first time! Brian power-washed the Weber and he grilled sausages and a basket full of veggies ~ zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and red and orange peppers. I made a side dish of brown rice with slivered almonds and chives from our garden.

Did you ever see a cat that liked grilled zucchini?! We had the grilled veggies up on the kitchen counter and weren't paying any attention to Zippo, who was in the open kitchen window. Next thing you know, Zippo (who is almost 18 but can move quickly when he wants to) grabbed a piece of yellow squash in his mouth, jumped off the counter, and ran across the kitchen with the squash dangling from his mouth like it was a mouse. We were laughing so hard...he looked so ridiculous! That piece of squash was gone in a heartbeat. We couldn't believe it...a cat likes grilled squash? So, we gave him a piece of zucchini. He loved it.

Doesn't look like we'll be grilling again for awhile. The extended forecast shows nothing but rain - or at least, cloudy skies - for the next 10 days. And much cooler temps. I need to tell my California sister-in-law to send more sunshine our way.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

midweek this and that

Hello friends ~ I hope it doesn't seem too far off where I begin talking about last weekend. Saturday started out with our washing machine dying. The serviceman said it was the transmission. We asked his opinion if the machine was worth fixing - it's about 12 years old - and he said no. I'm not surprised we needed a new washing machine after 12 years: I do a lot of laundry.

The good news was that the serviceman had a few refurbished washing machines at his shop. I didn't want anything fancy. All I need is a gentle and regular cycle, warm and cold water, and small - large settings. And no digital, please. To me that means more stuff that can break and bigger repair bills. We chose a refurbished Whirlpool machine that was only a few years old and met my simple criteria - for only $175. That included delivery and hauling our old machine away. Before our machine was delivered, we went to the laundrymat to do our laundry. It's been years since I've been in a laundrymat. I've always found these places a little depressing. They look so tired. There was one lone older gentleman in there. You can see him in the middle of the picture. He never moved a muscle and stared straight ahead the entire time. 

We didn't waste any time in the laundrymat, as yard work beckoned. I haven't been able to do much because of my knee (meniscus surgery), back (pulled a muscle a couple of weeks ago), and shoulder (impingement). Jeez, I sound like an old lady! ;-) And with Brian working most days and many long hours, we have to grab yard work time wherever we can get it. Brian and Tim worked hours raking the yard and the garden beds. I planted pansies (hooray for cheerful spring flowers!), and uncovered the patio furniture and got it set up. It still needs to be power-washed, but in the meantime, it will do.

Sunday was Easter. It was just the three of us, plus my mom at our house. I bought an uncured (nitrate-free) spiral ham, and also made cheesy potatoes (no nasty, chemical and sodium-laden canned soup in this recipe), honey-glazed carrots with thyme and lemon, and asparagus with a Dijon vinaigrette. A low-key, not-much-fuss dinner with mild weather where we were able to sit out on the patio after our meal and relax and talk.


Spring has truly sprung here in the Midwest. With warmer temps and lots of rain, the landscape has come to life once again. The vinca is showing off its little purple flowers...

hostas are almost completely unfurled...

lilacs will burst into bloom any time now...

clematis has come back to life...

and my neighbor's cherry tree is so beautiful right now, that I had to walk down the street and take a photo.

In other little bits of news, I'm still working on cleaning out my books. I now have 11 bags of books to donate! I contacted one local library so far, and am dropping off five of the bags of books tomorrow for their Friends of the Library book sale. On my last post, someone had commented about getting rid of books after they've read them. I do indeed do that - unless it's a non-fiction book that I know I'll be referring back to. These books that I'm getting rid of are ones I haven't even read yet! Several years ago, I had a friend over and she was looking at all my bookcases. She said, "You'll never be able to read all these books before you die!" I think she'd be proud of my cleaning-out efforts.

Happy Wednesday. Have a blessed rest-of-the-week.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

spring amazements and a big project

This weekend, I went to one of my favorite local garden centers to look around. When I walked into this greenhouse, I stopped in my tracks and smiled. One thing's for sure: When you live in an area that has long, cold, gray winters, it sure makes you happy to see color and flowers again.

I didn't rush and buy any flowers yet though as I knew I wouldn't be able to plant them this week. And right now, all I want to plant is some pansies and they were overpriced at this garden center.

What I did buy? ONE succulent.

Remember the vintage planter I got a couple of weekends ago at an antique shop?
It was calling for a succulent.

If you're wondering about the piece of art in the background...that's a metal and wood plaque by the contemporary American artist, Nancy Thomas. I found it in Goodwill many years ago.

I am amazed by what is blooming or coming out of the ground every day. One day the hostas were barely poking out of the ground and two days later, the leaves were already unfurling.

Today I was walking around my yard and I found these beautiful daffodils in bloom. A couple of days ago, they were merely green stalks.

And rhubarb! That appeared practically overnight, too.

 I had physical therapy this morning (and oh, by the way, I saw the orthopedic dr yesterday for my six week checkup and he didn't like how my knee and leg are still I started a prescription anti-inflammatory that will hopefully get that swelling down...and lucky me got another month of PT tacked onto my schedule, too), and this afternoon decided to start a big project.

As most of you know, I'm an avid reader and love my book collection. I have books in every room of my home except for the bathrooms. Downstairs in my family room, I have three big bookcases and two small ones. I also have big wicker baskets full of books because I have no more room left in the bookcases. Well, I decided to tackle the books today. Monkey was absolutely thrilled by this prospect.

I started with the first bookcase and cleared off the half the shelves, starting at the bottom. I carried those approximately 150 books upstairs (lots of trips) and piled them on the kitchen table. I looked up each book on amazon to see the average reader review. Anything less than four stars, I didn't keep it. After that, I decided which ones to list on paperbackswap and which ones to donate to my local library for their Friends of the Library book sale.

I ended up listing 44 books on paperback swap and bagging up another 47 to donate to the library. The remainder were the ones I kept.

Look - I already have empty bookshelves! My goal is to finish this first bookshelf by this weekend. I have a loong way to go, but this is a start.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter - if I don't talk to you all by Sunday!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

citrus cakelets

I rarely bake these days since we try not to eat sugar and white flour ~ though once in awhile I'll bake a healthy treat that uses pure maple syrup and almond or oat flour.

But when I saw this recipe for Olive Oil Cakelets in last Sunday's Chicago Tribune, I had to try them. I know the title of this post says Citrus Cakelets, not Olive Oil Cakelets. But since these little cakes have citrus in them and the word citrus sounds much prettier than olive oil, I call them Citrus Cakelets. ;-)

 I made them with fresh lemon...and let me tell you, they are were (we ate them all) phenomenal!

Just look at the inside of one of these cakelets: so airy and moist.

Without any further ado, here's the recipe. Go make them. But do yourself a favor and double the recipe. This recipe only makes five cakelets (muffin tin). The recipe says it makes six, but I filled my paper liners to near the top. 

1/2 cup plus 3 T all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar (I used organic cane sugar & used a little less than 1/2 c)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
6 T extra-virgin olive oil
6 T milk
1 large egg
1/2 tsp citrus zest
2 T citrus juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/4 c sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Place 6 free-standing paper cups on a baking sheet or line 6 cups in a muffin pan with paper baking cups. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, milk, egg, citrus zest, citrus juice and almond extract. Add to dry ingredients; stir just until combined. 

Divide batter evenly between cups. Top each cakelet with sliced almonds and dust lightly with sugar, if desired. (I didn't do this.) Bake 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it.


Monday, April 3, 2017

monday night chat

I started this post by uploading some photos this morning, but severe back pain hit and I wasn't able to write until now - nighttime. More on that later in the post.
Wow, did I ever have a great weekend! My sister and brother-in-law invited Brian and I to a Blackhawk's game. Brian and I have never been to a live Blackhawk's game. We had a blast. I was a little worried ahead of time about my knee, with all the walking and going up and down the stairs in the stadium, but I did fine.

I love hockey. It's the only sport I enjoy watching. Must be the Canadian in me. My dad was Canadian...and I was born in Canada, though we moved to the States when I was three months old. My dad was a semi-pro hockey player back in Canada, and when I was growing up, he coached kid's hockey games (I went to a lot of these games with him) and he also took me and my sister ice-skating on a huge pond every winter. 

Brian and I spent the day in Evanston on Saturday. It's one of our little day trip go-to places. While browsing in Stumble and Relish, I was eyeballing these handmade earrings. I thought they were pretty cool and I love handmade jewelry, especially by local artists. Brian asked if I wanted them and I told him I wasn't sure; that I'd think about it. He insisted on buying them for me. :-) 

Of course, a trip to Evanston wouldn't be complete without a stop at our favorite antique store, Secret Treasures. I brought home this vintage pottery planter, which was only $6. Not sure who the maker is - it's only marked USA on the bottom. Now I just need to buy a little succulent to put in the planter to make it complete.

We decided to try a new-to-us restaurant for lunch and at the suggestion of a store clerk, went to a casual Mexican place.

Brian's tacos look good, right? He said they were...though I was a little disappointed in my fish tacos. It was one piece of fried fish, almost like a fish stick. And there was a sauce in a little jar on my plate that went on the tacos. The waiter neglected to warn me that the sauce was very spicy. My mouth and lips were on fire! I also had a "real" guava margarita (not made from a mix) but was in a very small glass that was filled with mostly ice. Needless to say, in general we were disappointed with this place and won't be going back.

 We also visited one of our favorite independent bookstores, Bookends and Beginnings where we purchased a couple of used books and also had a nice chat with the owner. I didn't take any new photos, but here's one from a previous visit. This is the cookbook section - they have a fabulous selection.

No photos, but on the way home we stopped at a Mediterranean grocery store and picked up fresh pita bread, hummus, baba ganoush, dolma, and a block of paneer cheese so I can try and make one of my favorite Indian dishes, Palak Paneer. It's basically cubed cheese in a spicy spinach sauce. A few miles up the road, we hit a Jewish deli for corned beef, pastrami, tuna salad, chive cream cheese ("schmear"), and bagels. One good thing about living in the Chicago area, is that we have access to just about any kind of ethnic food we desire. A foodie's heaven!

 We stayed home on Sunday and got a lot done around the house. At one point, we were outside picking up some of the twigs and branches that have fallen into our yard from all the storms and when I bent over, there went my back. I immediately started having horrible back spasms. I wasn't totally surprised. I had noticed a couple of times since my knee surgery, when getting up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, my lower back would lock up on me for a moment and have one of those spasms.

This morning, my back was in slight pain and I'd get those spasms if I made a sudden movement or bent over even in the slightest bit. I took a slow, gentle walk to the channel down the road. The fresh air and movement felt good, even though it was - surprise - another gloomy day with rain moving in.

 When I got home, I took a warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender oil, then did some gentle stretches. I was feeling better until this afternoon, and then the pain started getting worse. I normally don't take ibuprofen, but by 3:30, I couldn't stand it anymore. I had to take something. That only took the edge off the pain for a couple of hours. The pain and spasms got bad again. I spent a lot of time with the heating pad on my back, which felt really good.

 I Googled about pulled muscles in the back + remedies and one thing I read said to try using a tennis ball. So I took a tennis ball and put it between my lower back and the wall and moved around to try and get some of the tight muscles loosened up. Guess what - it worked! I'm not pain free by any means, but it helped a lot. I'm supposed to be going to physical therapy tomorrow, but I don't know if I'll be able to. I'm pretty bummed about that possibility. I was making good progress with my knee in PT and was halfway through. If I miss a session or two, I'll be going backwards. 

 (my clematis coming to life!)

And now it's time to feed the cats and get ready for bed. 
Here's to a better tomorrow.