Tag Archives: dinner

And Then This Happened (Grand Canyon, Part 2)

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One of the things we wanted to do at the Grand Canyon was watch the changing colors at sunset. Because we were driving an RV we found an over-look that was fairly quiet.

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We couldn’t resist dinner with a view, but after taking some pictures from inside the RV, we moved outside to just soak it all in.

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Click on any of the photos to get a closer look.

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We’d had a full day and it was so peaceful watching the rocks change from orange to purple as shadows crept across the canyon.

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The next morning we were up early so we could drive back to the canyons South Rim to watch the sunrise.

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The moon hadn’t set yet.

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After breakfast in the RV, we drove to the Visitor’s Center, parked, and caught a shuttle to enjoy more beautiful canyon vistas.  On Tuesday we’d driven one direction to the Desert View Watchtower near the East Entrance to the park.  Now we went the other direction, riding the shuttle to the last stop, Hermit’s Rest.

We browsed the gift shop and made a few purchases, enjoyed the view then back on the shuttle to Pima Point.

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And then this happened.

Rem had a seizure.

It’s important to know that he had a bicycle accident in 2002 and knocked his head badly, cracking his bike helmet. He suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) as well as other injuries.  That is a whole long story, but since that accident he’s been on disability. He’s done a lot of rehabilitation and healing. Then about six years ago he had three seizures in one day. It’s possible that a bad reaction to an antibiotic he was taking, combined with the brain injury, were what triggered those seizures. Or it could have just been the TBI.

It is very distressing to see someone having a seizure, especially someone you love. Rem fell while he was seizing, cutting his lip, scraping and banging his arm and his hand. Almost as quickly as I got to him, and I was crouched over him, holding this head, two people were right there behind me, and the woman asked “how can we help?”

At the moment, of course, I was flustered and anxious, adrenaline pumping as I grabbed Rem’s dropped backpack to put under his head. But even under these extremely stressful conditions, I was amazed at her next words: “We’re both neurologists.

Wow.

I could not have imagined having this happen while we were on vacation but if it was going to happen, especially at an out-of-the-way location, who better to have standing ready to help but two doctors who specialize in the brain and nervous system?

This couple, tourists vacationing from Germany (and I only caught his name, Tobias), kept me calm at a time I was afraid. They reassured me and one of them, when she couldn’t reach 911, spoke to a shuttle bus driver who radioed in the call. They asked questions about Rem and his condition and when they learned he had a TBI and had previously had seizures, they said it was quite normal to have another seizure.

Although it felt like like a very long wait for the ambulance with Rem unconscious on the sidewalk and me on the ground with him, leaning over his face so my sunhat provides him some shade, the two doctor continued to reassure me about the typical symptoms he was exhibiting.  They were standing to provide shade as well. We could hear the siren echoing on the canyon walls and it seemed to be close than would fade as the road turned.

Rem would stir and blink his eyes a bit than sink back down. When he more fully regained consciousness he was very disoriented, again, quite normal under the circumstances, and what I’d experienced when he’d had the other seizures. But it was so reassuring to have these two angels with us for the whole time letting me know it was to be expected.

The EMT’s are park employees and the two doctors helped answer questions about what happened.  I couldn’t even remember how old Rem was and finally said “I’m 55 and he’s 7 years younger!” One guy was asking Rem if he wanted to go the the clinic in the park and Rem was saying “no” but I was saying “yes!”  Of course part of the questioning was to help them ascertain Rem’s condition. When asked if he knew where we were he said “Yosemite.”  I thought that was actually pretty good – it’s a National Park that we’ve visited.  He knew the President but not the day of the week. We were on vacation after all, so I’m not sure if I even knew the day of the week.

Rem was completely confused to be lying on the sidewalk with people leaning over him asking him questions. I kept telling him “You had a seizure and fell.” He finally said indignantly, “Well why didn’t anyone tell ME?!”

Soon enough he was on a gurney and I stood up and looked into the faces of Tobias and his wife/partner. I thanked them profusely and they explained that they see seizures and seizure patients every day in their work, and hadn’t expected to be involved with any on their vacation. As we walked out to the ambulance they explained that they’re not allowed to practice in the US. I assured them that making a 911 call and staying with Rem and I was not against those rules and that the care they had provided with their knowledge, calm presence, simple questions and explanations, and even standing close to provide shade had all been so helpful. I was so grateful and am still amazed that these would be the two people who were right there when it happened.

I was able to ride along to the clinic. Rem kept asking about “the car” and wondering how we would get back for it. I reminded him we had the RV and it was safely parked and we could get to it after he’d seen a doctor.

The doctor at the Grand Canyon clinic was wonderful.  She was calm, reassuring, and thorough. After an exam, lots of questions, tests and their results, she sent us on our way with a prescription for an emergency “break through” seizure medication.  She urged us to contact Rem’s GP and neurologist that day, which we did. The possibility that both the heat and the elevation (around 7,000 feet) could have been contributing factors was discussed.

Our day had changed course from our original plan, and it wasn’t exactly fun, but it could have been so much worse. I thought of a number of people I’d seen on the rocks at the edge of the canyon in the past few days.  They ignored signs and climbed over fences to pose for photos.  In many places alongside the canyon there are no fences.  That morning watching the sunrise, Rem and I had been sitting on rocks four or five feet from the edge. I’m so grateful that his seizure didn’t happen there.  Or he could have been driving our 25-foot rental RV when he had the seizure, another frightening thought.  In fact, he couldn’t drive for the remainder of the trip or for at least three months. I’m glad that I’d already been driving the RV.

We left the clinic and got a taxi-van to the market place to eat lunch. Then a shuttle ride to the visitor’s center where we watched a movie about the canyon, relaxing in the air-conditioned theater.  Even after this little rest we were both pretty worn out.  We took a short walk to the parking lot and our home-on-wheels. We climbed in, turned on the generator and the AC, closed the blinds and took a nap.

After the nap we caught a shuttle for one last trip to the rim at Yaki Point, and a final look at the canyon.

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On the drive out of the park we stopped at the entrance to get one more picture.

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Then back to the RV park in Tusayan for a good night’s rest.

Thanks for stopping by.

 

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Recipe: Thai-Style Seven Flavor Salad

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After nearly two weeks of juicing fruits and vegetables for breakfast and lunch and eating vegetarian meals for dinner, Rem and I went our for Thai food on Friday evening and ate a yummy appetizer that inspired this dish. At Thai Smile in San Rafael, the dish is called MIANG KHAM (Spinach Wraps).

Instead of a bowl or plate of salad this is assembled in small lettuce leaves and eaten out of the hand like a mini lettuce taco. Each person assembles a wrap with the seven different ingredients, plus the chutney to pull it all together. It is very flavorful.

I used lettuce leaves instead of spinach and cooked shrimp meat instead of dried shrimp. Peanuts were replaced with almonds, but only because I didn’t want to buy a large bag of peanuts.  Either would be great. It was a refreshing supper on a hot summer evening.

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I also cheated by using chutney for the sauce, but it was fairly similar to the sweet, gingery sauce we enjoyed the other night.

I’m going to offer suggested amounts for two servings, but to be completely honest, I didn’t measure as I was making this. So feel free to ad-lib and adjust as you see fit.

Thai-Style Seven Flavor Salad

2 baby gem lettuce, leaves pulled apart and washed and dried on paper towel or in lettuce spinner

1/3 lb. cooked shrimp meat

about 1 cup dried shredded coconut, toasted in a dry pan until a bit brown, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn ( I got plain, unsweetened shredded, dried coconut at Trader Joe’s)

1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts or almonds (I used rosemary and salt Marcona almonds – yum!)

1/2 lime with peel, thinly sliced, each slice cut into about 6 small squares

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into very small dice

2 inch piece of green onion, finely sliced or chopped

1/2 jalapeno chili cut into very thin slices, than cut those in half or quarters

1/2 to 3/4 cup of chutney

Arrange all ingredients in small bowls or in piles on a platter.  Each person assembles their own individual wraps.

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The coconut and almonds or peanuts are crunchy, the chili, onion and ginger add their own zing and the lime is bright and tart. The dried shrimp we had in the restaurant was kind of chewy and salty.  But for our summer dinner (with half an avocado on the side), the cool, sweet shrimp were delicious.

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In my #30DayJournal project today, the prompts asked about how I bring creativity into my life, and experimenting with recipes is one of the ways I do that.

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Thank you for stopping by (sorry for the early draft that went out by mistake to my subscribers).

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Birthday Dinner Recipe: Fresh Pasta

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When Rem and I were on vacation, we celebrated my 55th birthday with a delicious home-cooked dinner.  I haven’t made pasta for years and years but love the slightly irregular, slightly chewy fresh noodles and knew it was part of my desired menu.  We also had flat roasted chicken, asparagus, and a yummy chocolate cake for dessert.

This was a fresh spinach and herb pasta which made beautiful, springy, green noodles but the flavor was pretty mild.  I will try it again with more herbs next time.

Here is a little slide show made from pictures of mixing the dough, rolling it out, cutting the pasta, and cooking it (some of the same photos are throughout the recipe as well).

Fresh Spinach & Herb Pasta

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

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3 cups fresh spinach and herbs (any combination of spinach, arugula, green onion, chive, basil, green onions or other fresh greens and/or herbs will work fine – we used mostly spinach,  with some very finely minced rosemary, thyme and some dried basil because we didn’t have fresh)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus additional flour for rolling out pasta

2 large eggs, room temperature

You may need 1 or 2 Tablespoons water

Optional: Cornmeal for rolling out pasta

Directions:

Wash and dry your fresh greens and/or herbs.

Coarsely chop the greens and herbs and place in a sturdy bowl and sprinkle with the coarse salt.

Use a pestle, dowel or other implement to grind the salt and herbs together into a wet paste. (I used a metal spoon) and set aside.

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Mound the flour on your work surface.  Make a well in the flour with your fingers and crack eggs into well.  You can start with a fork but I just used my fingers to start mixing the eggs and flour together.

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Add the herb paste to the flour and egg mixture and continue mixing.  You may need to add a tablespoon or two of cold water to form a rough dough with no dry flour left on the counter.  However, I didn’t need any water.  The dough will be fairly stiff.

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Knead dough for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and springy.

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Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes. Note: you may also choose to do this in a stand mixer, or in your bread machine set on the dough cycle. If you use your bread machine, cancel the cycle after about 10 minutes of kneading, and remove the dough.

Divide dough into 4 pieces.  With a rolling pin, roll out 1 portion of dough at a time on a large cutting board lightly sprinkled with flour or cornmeal, rolling dough quite thin, about 1/16th of an inch, although I don’t think mine was that thin.

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Cut into narrow strips, or roll up the whole sheet and then cut.

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In these pictures, when I rolled the whole sheet of pasta before cutting, it should have been in a looser roll.  Be sure to unroll the cut pasta.

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Toss strips lightly with a little flour or cornmeal and allow to dry for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.

If you aren’t going to use all the pasta, you should dry it for a few hours before storing.  I tried making nests, but my pasta was on the thick side and ended up sticking to itself.  I should have left it just spread out (or maybe hanging over a broom handle!)

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Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil.  Drop the pasta in and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes, testing for doneness after 3 minutes.

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Drain the pasta, add a simple sauce or just butter and Parmesan cheese and serve.  We used a splash of heavy cream (left over from another recipe), some butter, Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

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Mangia!

Thanks for your visit.  Still to come: flat roasted (or spatchcocked) chicken and chocolate cake.

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Chez Panisse

Chez Panisse

Rem and I had an incredible dinner earlier this week. We’d talked about going to Chez Panisse someday, and eating in the downstairs restaurant.  They recently marked their 43 anniversary.  I visited the upstairs cafe about 29 years ago but I’ve forgotten most of the details (though it was the first time I ever had crème brûlée).  It was time to experience dinner at the restaurant.

Outside Chez Panisse

Rem had an unexpected windfall, a gift from his dad, with a note saying “Take Dianne out to dinner.” It was the trigger to do something special.  We weren’t celebrating anything yet the evening felt celebratory.  Rem had just called two days prior and asked when they had seating on a weeknight and we got a table for the early (5:30) seating.

The restaurant at Chez Panisse serves a set menu of four courses that changes daily.  It is posted on their website a week ahead but if you make a reservation for a date further ahead then that, you’ll have to be ok with whatever they’re serving.  That isn’t a bad thing though, because what they’re serving is bound to be good.

Their signature is serving food created from the very highest quality, seasonal, organic ingredients.  It is mostly sourced locally and sustainably, and it is all beautifully prepared.  It is deceptively plain and simple. This is not hefty servings, swans made of spun sugar, pheasant under glass with esoteric spices and herbs, or blanketed with fancy sauces.

We arrived a little early for our 5:30 booking and were invited to wait in the foyer or upstairs in the bar.  We decided to try a non-alcoholic spritzer.  Since they had two types listed,  Plum Berry, and Lime, we got one of each and shared them.

Spritzers

Before I go any further, I’m must apologize for the photos.  The lighting wasn’t great, especially when we got downstairs to the restaurant, but more critically, I forgot to take pictures several times because I was so eager to tuck into whatever was on the plate or bowl set in front of me.

These drinks were a delicious start to the evening.  They both achieved a beautiful balance of not too sweet, not too fizzy and just right fruitiness. The aroma bloomed up from the glass and reminded me, for some reason, of fruit popsicles – but the best most perfect popsicles ever!  Every time I lifted the glass and tipped it for a sip, I was greeted with the fruity fragrance. They were so flavorful and refreshing on a warm, sunny afternoon.  We traded the glasses back and forth so we could both enjoy the two different drinks.

Before we finished our drinks, it was time to move to the dining room. Going down the narrow stairs from the cafe and bar to the  dining room, I noticed the copper railing.  The foyer is decorated with big posters and a large bouquet of fresh flowers.

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The dining room has interesting looking nooks and crannies and is warm with lots of wood, copper light scones and lamps.  There was a huge arrangements of flowers  and leafy branches in one corner and and a footed plate of tomatoes on a sideboard.

As we follow the host, I see the open kitchen and I’m delighted when we are seated just to the left of the wide entry to the bustling space.  The menus, small works of art with a beautiful linoleum block print of strawberries, sit on the white-clothed table under a large leather bound wine list.

strawberry printed menu

A waiter brought a small bowl of rosemary olives and then a basket of bread with a small dish of butter and our feast began.

Wine List and Olives

The main course is roasting on a spit just inside the kitchen.  Rem sits with his back to the kitchen to start but we switch for a course so he can check it out.  We nibbled the olives and mopped up the herbaceous juices with bread, anticipating the first course.  The waiter said there were “tomatoes in everything since they’re so good right now,” which wasn’t quite true, but they had a starring role on the first plates set before us.

Again, I’m embarrassed that I didn’t manage a photo until I was well into the dish.  It was just so enticing.

Menu inside

The different varieties and colors of tomatoes were drizzled with a vinaigrette and then scattered with shreds and leaves of two types of basil.  Two milky white slices of fresh mozzarella were the perfect counterpoint to the juicy, sweet tomatoes.  A large, golden brown fan at the top of the plate was a big zucchini flower dipped in tempura batter and fried to delicate crispness.

Half-eaten tomato appetizer

When I talked to my friend, Tom Hudgens, cookbook author and chef who worked for a spell at Chez Panisse, he said that much of the beautiful produce and other ingredients at the restaurant aren’t available to the average shopper because the vendors save their very best, peak-of-season items for Chez Panisse.  One bite of this perfectly plain but absolutely luscious plate of tomatoes had me convinced.  More of the good Acme bread sopped up every bit of juice and dressing from my plate.

Rem had been a bit apprehensive about his encounter with fish.  We knew it was on the menu and he wanted to have the full Chez Panisse experience, but having worked on a salmon fishing boat one summer in Alaska, he was a little cautious about the next course.

Halibut in broth

A piece of roasted halibut, crisp on the surface and flaky white inside, sat in a rich gold soup of fish stock created from lobster and rock fish, with tomato and saffron.  Dried fennel was scattered over the broth and soup.  I believe it was the most succulent, delicious, perfectly cooked piece of fish I’ve ever eaten. Rem agreed that it was incredible and ate it all.  He didn’t love the broth but I wanted to pick up my bowl and lick it clean!

At some point, I knocked over my glass with the dregs of the Plum Berry Spritzer.  I’d been letting the ice cubes melt a bit then sipping the last of the ambrosia. Luckily the glass tipped but stayed on the table and I only lost the ice.  The staff dealt with it quickly without making me feel clumsy.

The cute solo diner at the next table over asked in a charming British accent if there had been much left in the glass and when I said no he said “then nothing lost.”  We chatted a bit and learned he’d been anticipating his visit to the restaurant for 10 years!  His dinner partner had cancelled but he decided to stick to his much awaited plans.  He was enjoying his meal as much as we were enjoying ours.

View into kitchen

We’d been watching the main course roasting over open flames: spit-roasted pork loin.  It was served with shell beans (more bits of tomato in the bean broth), chanterelle mushrooms and crispy-fried sage leaf garnish.  Meyer lemon is mentioned in the menu and I didn’t taste it, but I guess it was used on the pork.  A small salad of watercress and escarole completed this plate.

Pork Loin Main Dish

Rem enjoyed a class of Rosso Scarpa with the entree.  It was very tasty but didn’t reach the same heights as the others. Once again, I soaked up the juices with bread and left my plate nearly clean.

Our neighbor told about his vacation so far including a terrible trip to Las Vegas that he wanted to forget ever happened.  He spent a5 days picking raspberries at an organic farm in the Central Valley, part of WWOOF, an organization or network, really, of organic farms and volunteers who work at them for room and board in exchange for 5 hours a day of labor. WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.  He was still looking forward to visiting Harbin Hot Springs before heading back to London.

The pace of our meal was slow and relaxed.  The room was a bit noisy but not because of loud music, which seems to be popular in some places these days.  Cooking and serving in the kitchen along with a crowd of happy people eating, drinking and celebrating whatever they were celebrating made for a constant babel.

The final course: dessert! I’d watched the plates go by and was happy when ours arrived.  Profiteroles, one with plum ice cream and the other with toasted almond ice cream.

Profiteroles

I couldn’t decide if I did or didn’t like the toasted almond ice cream.  Alternating bites between the two different flavors made them somehow even better than each tasted alone.  The almond was made by soaking toasted almonds and caramel in cream.  Then the almonds and caramel are squeezed in cheesecloth to get all the flavor out, the nuts are discarded, and the infused cream is used to make the ice cream.  There was something about the flavor that reminded me of milk left from a bowl of cereal, but better.

However, the sauce on the plate and the garnish of sliced peaches, strawberries and raspberries lifted this dish beyond what you might expect from looking at it.  Rem tasted a bit of peach and exclaimed “did you taste the peach??!” as I was savoring a perfect raspberry that almost moved me to tears.  It was a transcendent moment.

It was shortly after reaching this blissful state that I noticed proprietor Alice Waters in the kitchen. I don’t know if she comes every night but it was a thrill to see her in person.  She came out and greeted guests at a nearby table.  Johnny, the Brit at the table next to ours was nearly overcome.  After she returned briefly to the kitchen he looked at us in amazement and said he was more starstruck than if Tom Cruise had walked by.

He asked a waiter if Ms. Waters could possibly sign his  menu.  She came by and they ended up having an extended conversation including a discussion of organic farms, his travels, her daughter living in England and who knows what else!  They ended up exchanging emails and he sat looking stunned after she shook his hand and departed to visit with other guests, his dessert melting in front of him.  It was delightful to witness and clearly the cherry topping off his evening and perhaps even his trip.

A last, final small plate was set on the table, something more than what was listed on the menu, an encore to our meal. Three small bites for each of us and yes, once again I forgot to take a picture before I ate.

Empty plate

These little bites or mignardises were, for each of us: half of a ripe Mission fig, a strip of candied grapefruit peel and a chunk of dark chocolate almond bark.  We were sated and happy.  Our meal had been all that we had imagined it might be and more.  I’m already thinking about returning for my birthday next March.

Thank you for your visit.

 

 

 

 

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Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Ratatouille Ingredients

I need to share this recipe with you.  I’ve made a batch every week for the last three weeks and think it’s delicious but I can’t seem to get any good pictures of the finished dish.  But I can’t hold out any longer.

This came about because I bought some vegetables that I planned to cook on the grill. But it was so hot that weekend, I didn’t want to cook at all.  The next weekend rolled around and I still had the vegetables, a little worse for wear.  It was still hot so I wanted a recipe for the slow cooker.  I wasn’t sure how it would turn out but it was great!

My recipe is adapted from one I found by Geema at Food.com.  Each time I make it, I change it a bit based on what I have in the fridge.  It is pretty flexible, so if you don’t like mushrooms, by all means, leave them out.  If you have some fresh herbs to use up, put them in.

Third Batch Ratatouille ingredients

The first time I made it I didn’t take any pictures.  The top photo is from my second batch and I used 4 squash, Japanese eggplant and only one bell pepper.  The third time I made it with regular eggplant, big zucchini and bell peppers and small tomatoes.  It was delicious every time.

Here’s the recipe but don’t be too worried about measuring everything exactly.  Sprinkle in the herbs, drizzle in the oil and enjoy the way the dish melds into something greater than the individual ingredients.

Ratatouille in a Slow Cooker

Adapted from Geema at Food.com

1 large eggplant or 2 Japanese eggplant, (about 1.5 lbs. total), cut in cubes

eggplant

3 or 4 zucchini or other summer squash, cut in chunks

Zucchini

2 onions, cut into quarters and sliced

2 red bell pepper, de-seeded and cut into strips or squares

8 oz. mushrooms, cut in quarters  or if really large into 6ths or 8ths

2 large tomatoes, cut in wedges than chunks

2 cloves garlic, minced

'shrooms, onions, bell pepper and garlic

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Optional:

1 teaspoon sugar (I used it twice and forgot it the third time and the difference was pretty minor)

pinch hot pepper flakes (use caution here, a little goes a long way)

Hot Pepper Flakes

Directions:

Put half the vegetables in the slow cooker.

Dot half the tomato paste over the vegetables and sprinkle half the seasonings on the vegetables.

Drizzle with half the olive oil.

Half of the recipe in slow cooker

Repeat with remaining vegetables, tomato paste, seasonings and olive oil.

Cover, set slow cooker to high and cook 3 to 6 hours or low for 7 to 9 hours.

Full Recipe in pot

I used some fresh herbs in this batch.

Covered and Cooking

The last time I made it, my zucchini and bell peppers were on the large side.  It was a very full pot and took longer to cook. Next time I’ll use smaller veggies.

The finished stew.

Ratatouille

This is good hot with some grated Parmesan.  It is also good cold on a hot day.  You can toss it with pasta or use it for a pizza topping or sandwich filling.

How about on an open-faced meatball sandwich with melted cheese over the top?

Meatball sandwich

Or add some beans to boost the protein. I like a piece of french bread (or two) on the side to sop up the juice.  I imagine you could use a stick blender to make a smoother sauce.  I like it chunky so I haven’t tried that yet.

With Beans

Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicken, Spinach, and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Bowl of Pasta

I wanted pasta for dinner the other night because I’m still eating a bit cautiously after oral surgery last week and the idea of tender pasta was appealing.  Actually, I love pasta and I’m happy to eat it even when my mouth is fine.

We had a rotisserie chicken in the fridge and a box of spinach in the freezer, so I did a quick search online for recipes using chicken, pasta and spinach and found this recipe on Healthy. Delicious.  Of course you could cook up a chicken breast or two and start with a big bag of fresh spinach but for me this recipe is about a yummy and easy dish with stuff I had on hand.

Chicken, Spinach and Pasta with Creamy Feta Sauce

Adapted from Healthy Delicious

Ingredients:

8 ounces pasta – a big, chunky shape worked well

3 tablespoon butter, divided

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 cup half and half

1 1/2 cups milk – I used 2%  because that’s what we have in the fridge

4 ounces feta cheese

2 cups shredded chicken

1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach – thawed with moisture squeezed out

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

zest from one lemon

Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

I was rushing with the photos so I completely forgot to show the butter, milk and flour.  Or the oregano.  Oops.  I wanted to share this recipe here because it looked like a winner, but I also wanted to get dinner made and to sit down and eat it. The lemon zest I decided to add later, so I don’t feel bad that I didn’t take a picture of the lemon.  Sorry.

Directions:

Cook the pasta as directed on the package.  While it is cooking, proceed with the sauce.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring for a few minutes, so it is a nice, toasty color.

Put the half and half and milk in a microwave safe bowl or large, glass measuring cup and heat.  My microwave isn’t super powerful and 1 minute was enough so the mixture was warmish.  It could have used another 20 seconds.  You don’t want it to boil, just to warm it up before adding to the butter/flour roux.

Add the warm milk mixture to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes or until it has thickened a bit, stirring frequently.

The pasta, meanwhile, should be about done.  When pasta is done, drain in a colander, and return to the pot.  Toss with remaining tablespoon of butter.

Stir chicken and spinach into pot with pasta.

When sauce is cooked, remove from heat.  Stir in crumbled feta cheese, oregano, chili powder, black pepper and lemon zest.

Pour sauce into pot with pasta and stir to combine.

Serve.

Delicious!

Creamy Feta-Sauced pasta

All the flavors and textures worked well together.  If I’d been a little more organized, I would have saved some of the lemon zest for garnish and made prettier pictures, but I wasn’t and I didn’t.  It was very good and something I’m sure I’ll make again.  I hope you give it a try.

Thanks for your visit.

 

 

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Birthday Recipes

Sea Ranch Sundae

I wanted to do some cooking while we were at Sea Ranch.  I like to cook but cooking dinner from the fridge after work with limited time and energy is different than planning a recipe, having an open-ended time frame and nothing else to do!

We made a batch of macaroni and cheese from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook that Rem got for Christmas and it was good but I didn’t make the best choice in the cheeses I bought.  The cheese I picked out was pretty mild and the overall dish was rich and creamy but fairly bland.  But good, as my dad used to say!  We’ll try it another time with different cheese and maybe some other tweaks.

Best-Ever Recipes

This Sunset magazine was in the magazine bin and when I saw the recipe for Dutch Baby, that was my choice for my birthday breakfast.  It is baked in the oven and should puff up rather dramatically, but our smaller version didn’t get that puffy.  It was very good and I’ll try it again in a different baking vessel, perhaps a round pie plate.  I didn’t add sugar to the batter but I suggest you do if you try it and I’ll add it when I make it again.  I looked at several other recipes and some had sugar in the batter.  I’ve added it to the ingredient list.

Dutch Baby Ingredients

Dutch Baby

Adapted from Sunset Magazine

Note: This is for a 2-3 qt. baking dish, ours was 2 quart – Sunset suggests a shallow, oven-proof pan, no more than 3 inches tall – see recipe link for a larger version.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup butter

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk

3/4 flour

2 tablespoons sugar

Toppings

Toppings:

Powdered sugar, lemon wedges, honey, and fruit as desired.

Directions:

Pull out oven rack(s) so only lowest rack remains. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Put butter in 2 to 3 quart baking dish (see note, above) and set in oven to melt.

While butter is melting, mix batter.  Put eggs in a blender or food processor and whirl on high speed for 1 minute.

With motor running, slowly add first the milk.  Then, still slowly, add the flour and the sugar.

Continue to process for 30 seconds. (If you don’t have a blender or food processor, you can mix the batter in a bowl, beating eggs until blended and frothy; gradually beating in the milk, flour and sugar.)

Remove the baking dish from the oven, the butter should be melted by now, pour in the batter and return pan to oven.

Bake until puffy and well browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Dutch Baby & Fixin's

Dust pancake with powdered sugar.  Cut into wedges and serve with lemon wedges, more powdered sugar, fruit such as blueberries and a drizzle of honey.

Sugared Pancake

I expect to try this dish again and will post if I create a more puffy pancake.  It really was a delicious treat with a side of apple sausage and some beautiful blueberries on top.

Dutch Baby with Blueberries

For dinner I concocted something that was good but a little quirky and not really quite what I had in mind.  I don’t have a recipe because I was throwing it together. Rem had enjoyed ravioli for our anniversary dinner and I thought we could make giant ravioli using won ton wrappers or skins, like my niece Miriam used when she was on The Sam Livecast cooking contest.

Making Giant Ravioli

The filling was a combination of pork sausage (I would have picked plain ground pork if the grocery store carried it), minced fresh ginger, finely chopped cilantro, green onion and arugula and some soy sauce.  It ended up being fairly salty (we had a little leftover filling and I made some small meatballs that we cooked up and ate), but with the pasta, it wasn’t too much.

pans of ravioli

Each ravioli was made with two won ton skins and sealed with egg white.  We made them in the afternoon and lay them out on baking sheets covered in foil sprayed with non-stick spray. I put them in the refrigerator until we were ready to cook them.

For the sauce (this is really where I got off base), I sauteed some diced vegetables (onion, carrot, celery and fennel) until they were nice and caramelized, then added some red wine and cooked it until it was reduced by about half.  I strained out the vegetables and wasn’t really delighted by the resulting sauce.  I ended up adding some brown sugar and some soy sauce and made it into a terriyaki-type sauce.  It was pretty tasty but didn’t work that well with the pasta of the ravioli/won tons.

I also roasted butternut squash, carrots, onion and fennel and Rem sauteed kale.  We boiled salted water to cook the giant ravioli about 5 or 6 at a time, each took about 5 minutes to cook, maybe a little less.  I drizzled the sauce over the won ton and the roast vegetables, and added a spoonful of the diced veggies I’d strained out of the sauce to the kale.  Green onions garnished the won ton.

Birthday Dinner

I had some leftover won ton for my lunch.  A few splashes of soy sauce and toasted sesame oil were delicious and exactly the right sauce for the dish.  I’ll look up more recipes using reduced wine sauces and see if I can come up with a better combo for future kitchen adventures

The biggest success of the day was dessert.  I thought about different things I might make: chocolate souffle and chocolate lava cake were two ideas that came to mind.  But for the two of us in super-relaxed Sea Ranch mode, I wanted something more simple.

Back to the Sunset Magazine 25 Best-Ever Recipes article. This one looked pretty wonderful: Coffee Sundaes with Salted Peanut Butter Caramel.  I love coffee ice cream and I don’t have it very often.  When we have ice cream at home we almost always get vanilla because we both like it.  But for my birthday I decided I wanted coffee ice cream!

The recipe in the printed magazine had a side-bar recipe for caramel sauce.  The online recipe has you start with purchased caramel sauce.  But I did a little searching on the Sunset Magazine site and found the caramel sauce that is the starting point for the Salted Peanut Butter Caramel.  They call it DIY Caramel Sauce.

Since I came home, I’ve looked at quite a few other caramel sauce recipes online and there are many to read. In fact, I’ve made another caramel sauce that is different than the one I used for this sundae and it is also wonderful.  But it makes a thicker sauce and since our end result includes peanut butter, it is better to start with a thinner sauce.

That said, when I make it again, I think I will try it with a little less heavy cream because it was a pretty thin sauce. Thin but good. This is the recipe, from Sunset Magazine.  You may want to try it with 3/4 of a cup whipping cream.

Sundae

DIY Caramel Sauce

Ingredients:

2/3 cup sugar

3 tablespoons butter

1 cup whipping cream

Directions:

Put sugar and butter in a heavy saucepan and cook over high heat, stirring until is has an amber hue, 2 to 4 minutes.

Slowly stir in whipping cream.  It will bubble up.  Cook, stirring until it boils.

My mixture was somewhat separated and I noticed some of the caramelized sugar and butter mixture wasn’t emulsifying with the cream to form a cohesive sauce, but was in hard lumps.  I was able to get most of the lumps out with cooking and stirring, pressing lumps with the back of a wooden spoon.  I ended up pouring the sauce through a fine mesh strainer to remove a few lumps that didn’t seem like they were going to come out.

Keep leftover sauce in the refrigerator. (If you are anything like me, you won’t have leftovers for long).

Let the caramel sauce cool,  and then go on to transform it into the luscious sundae topping.  Actually, let me be very clear: it is luscious and sundae-worthy as is.  But if you like peanut butter, you will probably want to go all the way with this recipe.

Coffee Sundae with Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce

Adapted from Sunset Magazine

Note: The original recipe is called “Salted Peanut Butter Caramel;” I tasted the sauce before adding salt and didn’t think it would benefit from a teaspoon of salt.  However, if I’d been at home, I would have sprinkled on a few flakes of Maldon or other sea salt over the sundae (before the whipped cream).

Ingredients:

2/3 cup caramel sauce (homemade from recipe, above, or good-quality store bought)

1/3 cup chunky old-fashioned peanut butter

1 pint coffee ice cream

1 cup sweetened whipped cream

1/4 cup salted, roasted peanuts

Optional: A pinch of Maldon or other sea salt

Directions:

Heat caramel sauce in a small saucepan over medium heat until sauce is warm but not boiling.

Stir in peanut butter until incorporated.

Scoop 1/2 cup of ice cream into each bowl.

Top with 1/4 quarter cup peanut butter caramel sauce, a sprinkling of sea salt flakes (if desired), 1/4 cup whipped cream,  and 1 tbsp. peanuts.

Sundae Closeup

This combination of flavors and textures had me scraping the bottom of the bowl.  I had a second (smaller) sundae the next day after lunch.  We were heading home and the coffee ice cream wasn’t coming with us.  Before the end of Birthday Month, I’ll buy another pint and make another batch of Peanut Butter Caramel Sauce.

Thanks for your visit.

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