Home Alone: A Mother’s Fantasy

Back at the end of January, The Husband bought a barn on eBay. No, I don’t mean like a barn and some property, I mean just the barn, 5 hours from home. He finally started taking it apart and bringing home the pieces in March and has been going back up to it every nice weekend he can. The first weekend he went alone, then he took Tartlet 1, another time he took Tartlets 1 & 2, another time it was Tartlets 2, 3 & 4 (Tartlet 1 was in her glory having Mom without competition!). This weekend he has taken all four Tartlets! So I am having a wonderful quiet day alone.

I’ve done the sorts of things it seems every mom I know does when the kids are gone — clean and organize without interference. Tossing out little plastic toys that no one will miss if they don’t see them going into the trash, straightening some drawers, laundry, laundry, and more laundry. Finally it was time to take a break and find some nourishment.

Many times when The Husband is gone, I don’t really cook. Either I get some take out or I scrounge leftovers. Knowing I would be sans car (no take out) and wanting something that celebrated the adult moment of being home alone, I bought some mushrooms and asparagus before the family left. I added a sprinkling of feta, some onion, a little long sweet red pepper, and seasoned it with a little fresh garlic and dried basil and oregano and tossed it with mostaccioli.Β  Mmmm, adult food!

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He Is Risen!

We had the privilege today to celebrate the Risen Lord with a number of friends. The no-longer-blogging Gorfchild kept our guests from being too impatient while waiting for me to finish cooking by playing his guitar and leading us in some worship songs. I forgot to put the sweet potatoes in the oven, but thought I had, so we were 30 minutes behind schedule. There’s little so frustrating as opening your oven to find it empty when you are striving to have the other dishes finished at approximately the same time! But our friends are too polite to grumble over the tardiness of the meal. πŸ˜‰

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Notice the abundance of men in blue button-down shirts (4 total)? The Husband is one of them at the end of the table in the bottom pic. When I was gainfully employed as a chemist and I had need of a service technician for my instruments, I learned the HP dress code was a blue button-down. Now I think of it as the ‘nerd uniform’. Hehehe! πŸ˜€ I only mean that in the best way — I like nerds, I married one. πŸ˜‰

I think this was officially our largest Easter dinner. We had 19 adults, 5 kids, and 2 infants. We put 20 people at the big table and had a ‘kids’ table’ for the 4 youngest. The birthday girl (10 today) was very happy about being an ‘adult’ today! πŸ˜‰

The menu for today:

Lamb roasted with oregano and garlic, rather like the lamb steaks I did earlier
Ham with apricot glaze
Praline Sweet Potatoes
Oven Roasted Yukon Gold potatoes with onion and spices
Steamed Asparagus
Orange Glazed Baby Carrots
Peas
Baby Greens salad with grape tomatoes, olives, and jicama

Dinner rolls (the only thing that I didn’t prepare myself — brown-n-serve rolls)

and for dessert:
Chocolate Chip Cheesecake with Raspberry Sauce
Lemon Curd Cake with Fruit
Zucotto (a chocolate bombe)

Recipes and more pictures to come . . . stay tuned!

Currying Favor with Leftovers

Most of my cooking in the past week has been trying to figure out creative ways to consume this and it’s twin:

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As I’ve mentioned before, more often than not when leftovers are given a makeover to create a new meal they have a Mexican flavor because we all like Mexican foods. Using up this rice reminded me of a challenge I gave myself several years ago.

After growing up in a household in which chicken and turkey slaughter was an annual practice (well, I must confess we only raised turkeys one year but it *seemed* like more), in which the pot of boiling hot water was set up on a fire of logs a few yards from my bedroom window, in which my main role was pulling the feathers off the chickens after they had been dipped in the hot water, and which left us with chickens to bake most Sundays of the year, except for the ones in which we baked a turkey . . . and have I mentioned I’m an only child and these birds lasted a long time?? Well, after all that, when I left home it was several years before I ate chicken by choice . . . I would see the chicken and the smell of wet feathers would be conjured up and I would begin to gag. Chicken is fairly inexpensive and it’s a fairly healthy choice for meat, but cheap and healthy doesn’t necessarily result in tasty. After several years of chicken avoidance the wet feather smell wasn’t so strong, so my challenge to myself a few years ago was to make chicken and rice (or noodles) every night for a week and never have them taste the same. It was a great challenge and encouraged me to be a little more creative and I started enjoying cooking chicken a little more.

My challenge to myself this week was to not focus on Mexican or, due to the source of the leftovers, Chinese for the leftover menus. This was one of the first things I made: Chicken Curry.

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I started with some diced chicken breast and browned that in a pan with a little peanut oil.

Side note: one of my most helpful hints I can give to a busy cook is make your own convenience foods. One of mine is to buy large flats of chicken breast, clean them and then freeze; some are whole, others I dice before freezing, some I slice into long strips for skewers. So easy!

I added onion, celery, asparagus, and carrots and cooked until they were bright and still a little crisp. I added a little fresh grated ginger and minced garlic and sprinkled it with mild curry powder until it was lightly coated.

Next, I added some chicken broth and brought it to a boil and stirred in a little broth/flour paste to thicken it slightly.

Finally, I added some of the cooked rice and frozen peas and cooked it until those were heated through.

It had a similar flavor to the S&B Curry that I like without the MSG that doesn’t like me. This is something I’ll make again!

Taste of Summer

Way back in time, at the New Year’s Eve party, I made a lime and macadamia nut tart and promised Ellie I would post the recipe. I’ve been waiting until I made it again b/c I so wanted to post pictures, now that my favorite toy is my camera!

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Tonight was a perfect night for it. We had over a blogless couple that we haven’t gotten to see for a while. She has been my right arm in two catered events and I don’t think I could do it as a business without her.

I made some steak and chicken kabobs. The Husband did the skewering because I was running behind and thinking about just broiling the meat on the pan and serving it in a dish with a fork or tongs but he and Thing 1 like the metal skewers . . . if I do decide to make this food stuff into a livelihood rather than a hobby, he won’t be hired for kitchen help — each person could have an entire chicken on a skewer. πŸ˜‰

I also made asparagus. Somewhere in Mexico it is spring and there were tender little asparaguys in the Grocery last night and I couldn’t pass them up. After all, when Mobileoak and Beth picked up and headed to Seattle, I snagged their asparagus pot and have been dying to try it out. Let me just say, OH YUM! Perfect asparagus. I’ll try not to become obsessive like the artichoke & mushroom thing, but it may be hard. I love asparagus. And this pot is so sweet. Thank you Mobileoak and Beth for letting me adopt it! πŸ˜€

We also had baked potatoes and bagged salad. And the tart.

This recipe came from a Southern Living Christmas magazine a couple of years ago. The original calls for the optional addition of green and yellow food coloring. I’ll just say one word about green food coloring – BLECK! Until mathuaerknedam came over with his pie, I don’t think I had ever eaten a key lime pie before. They have milk, which isn’t great when you are lactose intolerant but I can have a Lactaid pill and enjoy dairy (although I don’t dance with cows), and I’ve always seen them in that unfortunate green color that everything is dyed for my birthday. MN’s pie was a purplish color with the cranberries and I LOVED the lime flavor in it, so when I looked at this recipe I wanted the key lime rather than juicing the less aromatic Persian limes that abound at the Grocery.

I forgot that the next time I made this I was going to try using my usual shortbread crust with macadamia nuts in it rather than the graham cracker crust, but it *IS* very tasty! Last time I garnished with real whipping cream, this time I used Cool Whip with the lime spirals and macadamia nuts.
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Lime and Macadamia Nut Tart

Crust:

1 (5 1/3-oz) package graham crackers, crushed (1 Β½ c.)
Β½ c. macadamia nuts, finely chopped
ΒΌ c. sugar
6 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:
6 large eggs
1 Β½ tablespoons grated lime rind
Β½ c. fresh lime juice (I used Nellie & Joe’s Key Lime)
1 c. sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine

Stir together crust ingredients. Firmly press crumb mixture evenly on bottom and sides of 10-inch tart pan.

Bake crust at 350F for 7-9 minutes. Cool.

Whisk together eggs, lime rind and lime juice in a non-aluminum saucepan over low heat. Add sugar and butter. Cook, whisking constantly, 8 minutes or until lime mixture is thickened and bubbly. Let cool 15-20 minutes.

Pour filling into prepared crust; cover and chill 4 hours or until set. Garnish with lime slices and whipped cream as desired.

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