Food and Drink

Call it a WIN

Last month, when I was visiting Erin in Pittsburgh, we spent a day shopping.  As we often do when shopping together, Erin and I drifted into a Barnes & Noble.  And kind of got lost for awhile.  

In the cookbook section (one of my favorite areas, I must admit), this book caught my eye.

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Sheet Pan Suppers.

It was the photo on the front (salmon and asparagus and tomatoes and lemons) that first drew me in.  But once I peeked inside, every single recipe looked great.

So I bought it.

Oh. My.

Great decision.

This cookbook (from author Molly Gilbert of the Dunk & Crumble blog) features appetizers, dinners, and desserts ALL "roasted" on sheet pans.  Molly's concept:  Throw everything together on one sheet pan and cook it together.  So once you're set up, you're done.  You can clean up and set the table and enjoy a glass of wine . . . while the roasting magic happens.  And when you pop the sheet out of the oven . . . dinner is served!

The concept is brilliant.  The recipes are brilliant.  This cookbook is a TOTAL WIN!!!

(And, really.  How can ROASTING everything ever be wrong?  )

I've tried many of the recipes, beginning with the salmon featured on the cover.

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Every single thing I've tried   . . .  from vegetarian fare (loaded sweet potatoes here) . . . 

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and roasted beet salads . . . 

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to fajitas . . . 

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and chicken curry . . .


have been fabulous.

Like . . . really fabulous.

The recipes are incredibly tasty -- and simple.  Roasted goodness, easy prep, and super-convenient clean up.  

This cookbook is a huge WIN.

(I just wanted you to know.)



Celebrate Cinco de Mayo. . . Ten on Tuesday Style!


Tom and I love Mexican food!

(And . . . the hotter, the better!)

Over the years, we've been incredibly fortunate to live in a couple of places with excellent, EXCELLENT Mexican food . . . Fort Collins, Colorado (El Burrito anyone?) . . . Austin, Texas (with Fonda San Miguel being one of the highlights) . . . and we've visited many other places, including several locations in Mexico (and Belize -- just south of Mexico; similar cuisine).  (You'll note Michigan is NOT one of the best places for excellent Mexican food.*  At all.  We've had to become really good at cooking it on our own.)


Our favorites?

  1. Thick, chunky guacamole.  (Pretty much . . . with everything.)
  2. Pico de gallo.  With fresh, crisp, slightly warm tortilla chips.
  3. Fish tacos.  (Preferably served with #1 and #2.)
  4. Sopa seca.  (With tortilla chips smashed in for a bit of crunch.  And plenty of sour cream.)
  5. Chicken enchiladas.  (With plenty of sauce, spicy - of course!)
  6. Huevos rancheros.  (No better way to start the day.)
  7. Snapper Veracruz.  (Jalapeños AND green olives.  BOTH make it best!)
  8. Chili Verde.  (Poured over beans and rice and maybe rolled in a fresh tortilla with a bit of cheese.)
  9. Quesadillas.  (With peppers and black beans and corn and a bit of fire.)
  10. Flan.  (Cool.  Creamy.  Rich.)

And, of course, it's all made even tastier with a nice, cold beer!


How about YOU?  What are your favorite Mexican foods?

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  


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* When we first moved to Michigan (direct from Austin), we discovered that something called a "wet burrito" was a staple on menus here.  While it might be tasty, it ain't no burrito!  (We've always been too appalled to actually order them, but they're a sort of . . . casserole wrapped inside a GIANT tortilla, and smothered with a lake of mild salsa and cheese.  See someone's fond memory here.  Not really Mexican food, though.)

Okay. . . So Now I'm Hungry!


Thinking about today's Ten on Tuesday topic - Ten Favorite Sandwiches - makes me hungry!  Sandwiches are a staple in our house -- quick and tasty, but not terribly fancy or involved.


My favorites?

  1. Tuna Salad - with just enough mayo, more than a dash of pepper, a sprinkling of lemon juice, and jalapeños.  (And preferably on rye bread.)
  2. Grilled Cheese - with sharp cheddar just oozing out enough to brown a little bit and mayo instead of butter.  (And preferably on sourdough.)
  3. Turkey and Swiss - with lettuce, fresh tomato, dijon mustard, and a bit of mayo.  (Sourdough, please.) (And a pickle on the side!)
  4. BLT - with fresh tomatoes and crisp lettuce and perfectly-cooked bacon that explodes in your mouth.  (On toasted whole-grain bread.)
  5. Reuben - make sure there's plenty of Russian dressing!  (On rye, natch.)
  6. Tuna Melt - with perfect tuna salad and a slice of cheddar -- open faced and perfectly bubbling under the broiler.  (On an English muffin.)
  7. Fried Egg on Toast - with plenty of salt and pepper, some Tabasco sauce, and a bit of mayo.  Make sure the yolk is still runny and oozing over the bread.  (Whole grain bread for this one.)
  8. Hot Turkey - Tom's post-Thanksgiving specialty -- leftover turkey, heated in leftover gravy, served on toast (usually leftover whole-grain).  (I usually mix in leftover cranberry sauce, too.)
  9. Peanut Butter and Cheese - (Yeah, I prefer peanut butter with savory flavors rather than sweet.)  A little bit of bacon with the peanut butter and cheese is even better!  (On any kind of bread, toasted.)
  10. Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise - Hey!  Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!  My Dad introduced this one to me as a kid -- and it has always been my favorite go-to, quick sandwich.  I took a lot of grief from other (more traditional) kids in the cafeteria as a child, but I stuck with my PB&Mayo!  (Tom has never quite gotten past my eating this particular combo either . . .)  (On good, old white bread.  Of course. . .)

How about YOU?  What's your favorite sandwich? 


Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here!


One More Thing

There is one more thing I can add to my list of Things to Make Winter Less Bleak . . .


Kalamazoo Beer Week!

Yes, we hold our craft beer near-and-dear here in Kalamazoo (home to some truly great craft breweries), and in mid-January, when you might argue that winter is at it's very bleakest, we  celebrate with Kalamazoo Beer Week -- a full week of events and activities designed to "support the craft beer experience."  

There is even a KBW shuttle to get patrons safely from one event to another!


Yep.  Winter seems a bit less bleak this week!

Countdown to Christmas


I am nearly ready for Christmas festivities this week.


I've . . . Shopped.  Decorated.  Wrapped.  Shipped.  Partied.  Mailed.

What's left on my To-Do List?


Baking and cooking and getting ready to eat!

Here's what I'll be doing today:

  1. Swedish meatballs
  2. Rice pudding
  3. Pepparkakor
  4. Cardamon bread
  5. Lingonberry sauce
  6. Shortbread
  7. Digging out my recipe for glögg
  8. Sending Tom out for liquor
  9. Setting the table
  10. Assembling the smörgåsbord 

(Now I'm hungry!)

How about YOU?  What's on your to-do list today?


 Join the fun!  Sign up to recieve Ten on Tuesday prompts here - or read other lists here

Right Now . . . November 2014

November . . . You've just gone whizzing past.  Leaving a trail of . . . weather . . . in your path!  


Here's what's happening for me. . . Right Now! 

Watching . . . Snow come. Snow go. Not much on the ground at the moment (it's really amazing how quickly 19 inches of snow can melt in the crazy-weather days of November), but I hear more is on the way.

Reading . . . I'm reading Small Blessings (Martha Woodroof) on my iPad, and I've just started listening to Some Luck (the new one by Jane Smiley).  It's too early for me to have an opinion on either of them.  But I just finished We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler - and loved it. WARNING:  If you're thinking about reading that last one, don't click the link and don't bother to read ABOUT the book before you begin.  This is one that is best approached without any fore-knowledge. (And that's coming from someone who has no qualms about reading the ending first.)


Knitting . . . You guessed it!  Still working on this shawl.  But.  I'm so close to finishing that I can taste it!  A couple of good hours this weekend and I'll be done!!

Listening to . . . The new Foo Fighters album.  (Of course.)


Planning . . .  I am in FULL Holiday Planning Mode.  I kind of hate this part of the holidays, but once I get myself completely organized, I'll be ready to sit back and just let it all unwind.

Feeling . . . Better now.  But I've been struggling with a nasty attack of diverticulitis this week.  (It happens.)  I'm hoping to be back on solid food in time for Thanksgiving dinner. . .

Humming . . . Papa was a Rolling Stone.  Temptations.  (Don't ask.  I never know why these songs pop into my head.)


Wondering . . . How folks DO the Black Friday thing.  Because I just . . . can't. 

Drinking . . . Liquids.  (See above.)


Itching to . . . Just sit.  And knit.  (But not until the weekend.)

Needing to . . . Get to the grocery store for One.Last.Thing.  (Before the CRAZY really begins.)


Organizing . . .  All Holiday All the Time!

Delighted by . . . My new fridge!  (Our old one died . . . thankfully, in the midst of the polar vortex.  So we could just use the garage as our ice box.)  (I'm so excited because a matching new stove/oven is coming, too.  But not until after Thanksgiving.)


Inspired by . . .  Craft Friday!  I heard about it first on Beverly's blog, and I am so excited to participate.  I have my materials ready.  (Now I just need to dig out my sewing machine. . .)


Celebrating . . . Thanksgiving!  With both kids, their significant others, and my parents.  It's going to be a great day!

How about YOU?  What's going on for you . . . Right Now?

Postcards from Italy: In the Kitchen

Dear friends:

My sister and I first started talking (seriously) about our trip to Italy last winter.  The days then were long and cold and dark.  The winter was relentless.  We had cabin fever.  We longed to be under the Tuscan sun.

But what inspired us and kept us going -- all through February . . . into a slow-coming spring . . . and through the rigors of our worst work days -- was the thought of . . . 


Cooking in Tuscany!

Our villa not only featured an amazing restaurant, but also cooking classes with their chef, Gabriella.  We couldn't wait!


There were two other American women in our class (and one husband who came along to watch, but mostly got in the way of my photos. . .).  It was wonderful!

We started out in Gabriella's garden, picking fruits and veggies and herbs to use in the meal (lunch) we'd be preparing together.  


It was such a charming, wonderful garden . . . tucked in behind the kitchen . . . with a classic view of the Tuscan countryside.


Most of the people we met in Tuscany complained about the awful weather they've had this summer.  Where it's usually hot and dry and sunny . . . this year it's been chilly and cloudy and rainy (a summer kind of like the one we had here in Michigan, actually).  Gabriella said the weather had affected her garden -- but our harvest that morning was still pretty great!



Gabriella set to work!  She specializes in simple, Italian fare . . . using fresh, local ingredients.


She shared her recipes, her techniques, and her stories.  She also kept reassuring us that "she's a professional" and that, of course, she makes things look "easy!"  But she also gave us the confidence that . . . we could do this, too!


We prepared lunch: Rotolina di melanzana (eggplant rolls with ricotta cheese), Risotto con zafferano e fiori di zucchine (risotto with saffron and zucchini flowers), Filetto di maiale agli agrumi e miele di acacia (YUM pork tenderloin), and Tiramisù alle fragole (tiramisù with strawberries).


Mostly. . . we watched and listened.  And did a little chopping.  

I was inspired -- to get home and try to recreate Gabriella's recipes myself!*


We took a little mid-morning break.  (Because, in Italy, it's NEVER too early for a glass of wine!)


Gabriella's cooking-lesson/demonstration kitchen was charming!  A true Tuscan kitchen -- with a private dining area looking out over the grounds of the villa. 



And, best of all, we got to eat the lesson!


Such a perfect morning!  (And exactly what we imagined, back in those bleak days of February!)


And now . . . we need to hurry - or we'll be late for our afternoon tour to Montepulciano with Pino!



* Because Tom left for India almost as soon as I returned from Italy, I haven't actually tried any of the recipes yet in my own kitchen.  But soon!



A Little Fun . . . on Friday

Some weekends . . . are full of chores.

Some weekends . . . are for kicking back.

Some weekends . . . are even for working.

But some . . . 

Kicking things off with the Bells/Food Dance Beer Dinner! (Great food; great beer*; lots of swag!)

are full of FUN!

I'm launching into a weekend full of fun things -- and I hope you are, too!


* Got to try some Bells Sparkleberry last night.  (Now there's a FUN beer for you. . .)


HOP to it!

Last year, I planted two little hops plants in my backyard, using an arbor that Tom installed for me.  The hops grew and flourished, but not enough for a harvest or anything.

This year, though, we've got a different story!


Yes.  This year. . . we have HOPS!

(And, really, my whole back garden would be covered with hops if I didn't keep up with my "maintenance."  Because hops want to take over the world -- or, at least, my garden!  They aren't hard to maintain, though.)

We've got a lot of cones forming now.




According to the Michigan State University Extension website, we should expect to harvest our hops sometime in September.

I'll keep you posted on our Hops Progress. . . and, in the meantime, I'm in the market for a food dehydrator!

A Little Fun -- On Friday

Tom brought home a really fine bottle of wine last week.

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Especially fun ... was the back label.

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Not only did it "ticulate the festles" . . . but it reminded me of one of my favorite poems.  One I memorized in elementary school.  (It lives in my memory still. . .)

The Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
      The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
      The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand;
      Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree
      And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
      The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
      And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
      The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
      He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
      Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!”
      He chortled in his joy.

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
      Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
      And the mome raths outgrabe.
And with that, I wish you a FRABJOUS Friday!  (Callooh!  Callay!)