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Monday, April 23, 2018

Now

“Do you want the truth? Nobody knows what they’re doing in this life.
Not teachers or scientists or anyone with a college degree or even the President of the United States.
Nobody knows because life isn’t planned and it doesn’t come with an instruction booklet.
It’s fleeting and uncertain and complicated and nobody, not even the people seen as role models and heroes, can predict what is going to happen in the next minute, let alone the following day. Because life is sudden and frightening and the smallest thing can create the biggest problems before we even realise it.
But it’s also beautiful and inspiring and it’s the longest adventure we’ll all ever know.
So I say we just live, one day at a time without knowing how that day will pan out, including its weather and its purpose.
Let’s all live without fear and doubt and regret, with the people who make our hearts dance to the music we love and fill our souls with the little moments that make the greatest memories. Take photographs of everything.
Smile at strangers.
Say yes.
Throw a bag in the backseat and just drive.
Be honest.
Lie in the grass and count the stars.
Fall in love. Send that risky text. Read. Say no. Take risks.
Explore and grow and learn and discover and shape yourself into whoever you want to become. Do it, because tomorrow something could change and it could all be gone.
Don’t take anything for granted.
Just breathe in the air that’s free and smile at the endless possibilities and limitless potential. Live for now. And love every minute of it.” – Unknown

 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dinner 4.10.18 - Pureed Cauliflower, Vegetable Ragout, Chicken Meatballs

I had a pretty bad day yesterday brought on by the stupid winter-lingering-into-spring weather we've been having and big grief that smacks me in my head and weakens my knees brought on
by losing my beloved dog Jasmine a few weeks back.

It was one of those days where I didn't think I was in any shape to deal with dinner until I remembered that one of the best things I can do for myself when I am under stress or some other travail is to cook.  Big bonus points if that process includes chopping and slicing.  Don't know why but it helps significantly.  I lose myself in the chopping, in the slicing, the peeling; I'm sure it has to do with the rhythm.

After a round of deep soul-searing crying (missing dog bad), I splashed cold water on my face and dashed off to the grocery store at 5:30pm for dinner ingredients.  By 6:00pm I was back home and chopping.



not a great picture 😏
Baking is different but I almost never use recipes when I cook.  I might look up a recipe to see how someone else does it, but 9 times out of 10, I wing it.  Because of that I've decided to post my food creations so that I'll remember what I did for the next time I want to make it.  Plus maybe someone out there might like to cook it, too.

We eat really healthy around here on a regular basis (we do indulge ourselves from time to time though) especially since JP's health scare back in January.  Cooking delicious and healthy food is really easy and not expensive despite what a lot of people think. 

But this stuff is really boring to write about and to read about, right?

So anyway, to the right is a picture of last night's meal which JP and Sherb described as amazing, wow, crazy good.

Pureed Cauliflower
So easy.  Break up a head of cauliflower, cook in large pan with a can of (low sodium) chicken broth.  Add two cut up garlic cloves.  Cook until tender.  Cauliflower will absorb most of the broth but do not strain if there's broth left in the pan.  Once cauliflower is tender remove from heat, add a couple tablespoons of butter, about 1/4 cup parmesan, salt and pepper to taste.  I pureed in the food processor in two batches because my head of cauliflower was quite large and added a tiny bit of (skim) milk - maybe a tablespoon or two - because the cauliflower had absorbed all of the broth liquid.  If you still have broth, add it to the food processor.  You can add milk if you want a looser puree...or less if you want more a mashed potato texture.

Quick Vegetable Ragout
In a large pan, add a couple tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Slice one pound or so mushrooms (I used portabella) and add to pan, cook through.  While mushrooms are cooking, toss a bag of chopped spinach in the microwave, cool after cooking, then squeeze out all the water.  Add spinach to mushrooms.  Add 1/2 cup dry marsala wine. 
Cook one bag of baby carrots in saucepan filled with water.  When tender, strain, then slice on the diagonal and add to mushroom spinach mixture.  Add seasonings of choice (garlic powder, basil, s&p, etc). Cook until marsala is absorbed.

Chicken Meatballs
In large bowl, add one lb ground chicken breast (make sure it's breast because it's leaner and better quality).  Add about 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used panko because it's way lower in sodium) and seasonings of your choice (red pepper flakes, garlic powder, basil, etc).  Dive in there with your hands and mix it up really good.  Roll golf ball size meatballs and you'll get 12-16 meatballs.  I cook mine in our Cusinart Air Fryer Toaster Oven for about 10 minutes on the air fryer setting but you could bake them in the regular oven (350 for 15-20 minutes).

Took about one hour to throw all of this together. 
My family has requested that I definitely make this again.

Monday, April 9, 2018

De La Coeur, Saturday Night

Once a year, the sales manager at JP's dealership takes all the other managers out as an end-of-year  thank you. This past Saturday was that night and it was probably the best one yet. 

It's always held at some fabulous restaurant and Saturday night's choice - De La Coeur Café et Pâtisserie in Wilmington, Delaware -  fit that bill.  The entire restaurant had been rented out just for us, a group of 16, so it was delightfully intimate.  As a highly sensitive person with very strong aversions to too many people and too much noise, I wish I could always go out dinner where there's only 16 people.

Upon arriving, we were greeted with a glass of sparkling rosé with a cute little berry floating in the champagne glass.  Lovely.  In fact, that word can be used to describe mostly everything from that night.
Anything sparkling will almost always give me a massive headache but I indulged in one glass. 

Charcuterie and a cute little berry swimming in my rosé.  I concur with the sign at the end of the table.


We were told that there were to be five courses, the first of which was a petite charcuterie board at each place setting consisting of sausage, cheeses, bread.

Course #2 was a Caesar salad with shaved parmesan.
Course #3 was a divine roasted pepper soup with gouda.
Course #4 was beef brisket on the bone served over pureed cauliflower along with french green beans and a pile of shaved apple.  I don't really eat red meat but I did try it and it was melt in your mouth tender.  I would have traded it all in for a large bowl of the pureed cauliflower.  I wanted to lick my plate to get every little bit of that cauliflower but figured my husband would probably not appreciate me doing that in the company of his peers.
Course #5 took me to heaven by way of the flourless chocolate cake we were served along with a dollop of real whipped cream.  Heaven, nirvana, utopia...all of those words and more describe that cake.  Listen, I would have done a lot of things to have had more of that cake but, again, I didn't want to embarrass my husband even though I considered it.  Most of the people who were there know me pretty well and know I'm a little bit nuts so I should have thrown caution to the wind and asked "are you gonna eat that?" to those around me - but, alas, I restrained myself. That cake was so freakin' good that I am going to the grocery store for the ingredients to attempt to make one as soon as I'm done writing this.  If it comes out okay, I'll post the recipe.

In the meantime, if you are anywhere near North Wilmington, Delaware, and want to indulge your tastebuds, I strongly recommend that you visit this place.  They also have a boulangerie not too far from the patisserie.  I haven't been to it but I am certain that I will be making a trip there very soon.

Once a month or so, they do a special dinner very similar to the one I just described to you.  Check out their website and newsletter for more information on that.  We'll probably see you there.


 

Friday, April 6, 2018

Real Estate Chronicles, Vol. 1

After months of deliberation, we've decided to put our house up for sale and move back to Delaware.

Even though our house is pretty great, it just doesn't make sense for us to live in South Jersey anymore especially when JP's job is 45 miles away.  We moved from Delaware to this house in NJ because we wanted it to be a hub for family and friends and, sadly, that didn't work out.  Meanwhile, he's commuting an hour each way for no real reason.  It's just time to go.

Which means we have to look for a new house.




The first time you meet up with your realtor and set out to look at some houses, it's very fun.  You're excited, filled with naive happy anticipation, lovey-dovey with your spouse as you set off on this new life adventure with your best friend.  It's another step on that happily ever after thing.

The second time you meet up with your realtor - because all of the houses you saw the first time were terrible - a wee bit of apprehension will have set in.  You're slightly suspicious of basically everything in every room of every house.  But still, the eagerness is there.  Today might be the day you find your dream home!

By the third+ time you meet up with your realtor you are a shell of the person you used to be.  You're angry, disgusted, grossed out by how some people actually choose to live.  With every house you go into you are getting an intimate and oftentimes terrifying peek into the inner sanctums of faceless freaks strangers.  You try to imagine living in the space they're currently inhabiting and your skin begins to itch ferociously.

We've been out with our real estate agent for the past three weekends.  Lucky for us, our agent is a very good fit and is not in any way trying to make a quick sale so she can score her commission.  She wants to make sure we're really getting the house we want and that no one is trying to scam. This is very important.  If you aren't feeling it with your agent and they don't seem to have your back, get a new one.  A good rule of thumb when it comes to agents:  if he/she would also be perfectly suited to sell used cars, it's probably a good idea to find someone else.

I fell in serious like with a house we saw early on. I'll call it the Black & White House. Couldn't stop thinking about it.  JP said if I really want it, we'll buy it.  Oh, by the way, this too, is very important.  If your spouse/significant other is not letting you buy the house you want, it's probably a good idea to find someone else.

I kid, I kid.

So I seriously liked the Black & White House.  (I stop short of saying that I loved the house because it's a rare thing to find a house in which you love everything about it.)  We went back for a second look with the intention of then putting in an offer for it.  Yay!  Oh, joy of joys!  No more house shopping!  Thank you, Jesus.

We went through the house, fine tooth-combed it.  "Yes, this will work," over and over again.  Then back up the stairs into the living room for one final look before leaving.

Wait.  Is the living room floor...bouncing?  JP did a slight up and down bounce.  Everything in the room shook. Stuff wanted to fall off the shelves.  He bounced again.  Same thing.
Oh my God, the living room floor has no support.  Like, in a really bad way. 
We all three raced back downstairs to inspect the ceiling below the living room.  Yup, no support.  The fix would require major renovation and no one who is close to being in their right mind buys a house that needs major renovation unless the price reflects that, which it did not.
Real estate agent has that you'd-be-an-idiot-to-buy-this-one look on her face.
So much for the Black & White House.

Then there was the Train House.  Gorgeous place.  The owners had a massive dining room set in the room that should have been the living room, but no big deal.  Kitchen straight out of House Beautiful. But the market in Delaware is crazy hot right now...why hasn't this house been snatched up?  Hmmm.

JP and I go outside on the wonderful deck.  OK, I'm having visions of balmy night barbecues dancing in my head.  I ask if those are train tracks right there?  No, JP says laughingly to me.  They wouldn't be that close to the house, he says.
Except they were.
And while we were out there dreaming of barbecues, we suddenly hear the unmistakable sound of a freight train (!) approaching.
It passes by - or should I say through - the backyard.  I'm talking 30-40 feet from the back deck.
Now I'm cracking up, hard.  Screaming to JP over the din of the train, "I said do you want a hamburger or hot dog?".  My visions of idyllic backyard get-togethers squashed and flattened...like a penny on a railroad track. 😏  The irony is that I love trains.  I was the senior editor of an historical train publication for a lot of years.  That house might be perfect for me but I'm not sure about being able to sleep through trains passing by in the middle of the night.  And what if it derails?!

This past weekend we looked at a house that was straight out of the 1960s.  Literally that's how old the shag carpeting was.  It seemed to be an estate situation.  Still, you go through the house with a critical eye, seeing if you can update it without too much expense.  Except for the part when we were in the basement and I saw on the shelf what appeared to be rat poison.  Is this rat poison, I asked.  Everyone concurred that it was.  Then I was back upstairs looking in a closet with appeared to have an attic fan in it.  Attic fans are not usually in closets so I asked JP to take a look and confirm that it was a fan.
"Yes, that's definitely an attic fan.  With about seven dead mice in it."
Oh my God, I could not get out of there fast enough.

Photo Credit: Mark Gstohl
I fell in love with the last house we saw.  Big real rare love.  JP said you want it, you got it. ♥
We put in our offer.
Agent calls to say - wait for it - they don't want to close until the new year.
Wait, what?  It's April.
But we can move in before that in a lease/purchase kinda way.  Okay, that might work.
Next day, agent calls again.  Apparently there is a "large crack" in the house that they are not fixing, just painting over.
You cannot make this up.  Their contractor looked at it and said it was "no big deal".  I'm sorry but if your house has a large crack in it, you need a structural engineer to take a peek, not a general contractor.
Agent advises to run, run like the wind.  Offer withdrawn.

So here we are.  Looks like we'll be going out again this weekend to look at more houses.

I, um, can't wait.

 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Patina

"She has no patina."

"What do you mean?"

"Life’s made no significant mark on her, despite the fact she’s halfway through it. No real scratches or creases. It’s like whatever life has thrown at her, she’s impervious to it, she’s Kevlar. Her soul hasn’t been darkened or stained by what she’s experienced; but neither has it been deepened, healed or enriched in any kind of beautiful or interesting way."

"But isn’t that a good thing?"

"No, for better or worse life should not leave anyone untouched. Our patina is what makes us interesting." -Jonathon Carroll







 
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