Date Night

Every Thursday night, my husband and I go out to dinner.

I don’t remember when or how it started. Our kids got older. Weekends were busy with family and friend stuff. But Thursday was a “free” day to sneak in a date night. Before Covid when I was still commuting, it was also the last day of my commute. Friday I worked from home and didn’t have the 5:30 am alarm (remember commuting? I kinda miss it. Just a little)

Sometimes we go fancy, but more times we keep it low key. I put on some make-up and he wears his dress crocs (yes).

Sometimes we go with other people, double date night!

Where we go depends on weather, mood, and our last good meal. We’ve been known to go to the same place for months if things go well. Sometimes we go locally, sometimes we go far. A lot of couples go out to try new places, try new food. That’s not a priority for us.

Before Covid our favorite way to have Thursday date night was to sit at the bar for dinner. Yes, we are those people.

Once or twice a year we make it an overnight and sneak into New York City. Treat ourselves to a hotel.

Unless we’re sick, the rule is you can’t miss it. Does it have to be magical? Hells no.

We’ve had plenty of good fights on date night. Lots of driving home in silence. But guess what? It’s fine. We can try again next week.

Sometimes we talk about work or kids or family. Sometimes we talk about money or vacations or bills. Most often we talk about the day. We keep it light. This isn’t the night to solve major problems or make big decisions.

When things started shutting down last March, our date nights came to an abrupt halt. We spent the next few months eating at home and sheltering in. Which was nice too. Then, in early summer, things started slowly opening up. We were back in business… kind of. But it was better than nothing.

This pic is one of our earliest dates. Look at those young, care-free kids with the good hair.

Here’s the years since…

Pre-masks!

Why does be make faces?? I dunno. That’s for another post.

#fail

This is not a sign of things to come. In no way does this frame the rest of this year. This is just a little blip. 2021 will still be full of positive outcomes and good intentions. That’s what I’ve been repeating to myself for the last few hours.

This post was supposed to be called FRYday. Cute right? It’s Friday… I was going to post a fried appetizer recipe. I had a plan.

To make things even more interesting the recipe was an original. Totally my invention…well kind of. Years ago Patricia Heaton from Everybody Loves Raymond fame had a very short lived show on Food Network. I watched every episode. It was the mash-up of my two favorite things – food tv and sitcoms. One of the episodes was on a leek dip. I’d never made leeks before and it looked delicious. I started making it for holidays and book clubs and gatherings. It was a hit! I mean I liked it.

Anyway back to my fail.

Today is the new year. I wanted to make something special. Something celebratory. I’ve also been a bit obsessed with frying things lately. No, I don’t have an air fryer. Yes, I know you love yours and I should get it too. But I’m not going to. So anyhoo, do you fry shit? Like in actual oil? It’s hard. I’m telling you it’s not easy.

I’ve also been thinking about wonton wrappers. Is that weird?

So I decided to take the leek dip recipe and combine with a cream cheese wonton recipe. Leeks, goat cheese, cream cheese and dill. Delicious right?

Ok here’s how it started…

Leeks, goat cheese, cream cheese, dill, butter and wonton wrappers
Leeks are dirty. Chop and soak in water
Dry them and wring out any water
Sauté the leeks in about a tablespoon of butter

So far so good right?

Once done you’ll combine with the cheeses and dill (it’s dill heavy)

Basically now you’ve almost made the dip. The only thing I didn’t add is the cream.

This is when things started going downhill. Now you heat the oil.

Heat about 2 cups of the oil in a small pot

Why a small pot? I dunno. I’m scared of hot oil and it makes me feel better if it’s in a small pot. My mother and my aunts would laugh at this sad display. They use a wok like large pot with atleast a full bottle of oil. DANGER!!!

Now on to the wontons. I don’t know if I got the right ones. They said vegan. Are all wontons vegan? I’m pretty sure I didn’t go to the right place to find them. They were next to the kimchi so I assumed all was well. Who knows.

I started the construction.

(I forgot to tell you that you also need an egg wash. Just one egg and 2 tablespoons of wager)

Still looking ok…. but wait for it… wait for it….

Ummm what the hell is that? Ok, new plan. New shape.

Ok that’s better. But big. I wanted them smaller. One bite size.

Then I started failing… err… I mean frying.

Then I tried another shape. This is before I gave up and started eating cookies.

Look at those sad little babies. Unloved. Misshaped. Cooked unevenly. Sigh….

Btw – these are the best ones. There were 50 others that I couldn’t/didn’t even photograph to save my dignity.

I packed up the rest of the filling which I’ll freeze and use as it was meant to be. I’m sorry Patricia Heaton. I should have stuck to the plan.

Well, nothing like spending 3 hours on 5 appetizers. Good times.

Frying food. It’s not for amateurs. First lesson of the year.

Happy New Year all! Xoxo

Vacation me

I’m off work for a few days, and it’s magic!

This week… from Christmas to New Years is amazing. A black hole of nothingness.

Why didn’t anyone tell me how great this was??

Vacation me is such a gem. She’s relaxed, and happy and almost light hearted! Almost.

I mean this isn’t my first time off this year. I took a week in July but that was different. Other people were working and I was still checking emails. Still working from the side of my vacation.

But this week. This magical week. No emails, no missed meetings, no nothing.

Listen – in general I’m not saving lives at work. What I do day to day in no way impacts the world. It should be no surprise that me not doing the work is totally inconsequential. It’s a non-event. And I couldn’t be happier.

Vacation me is mellow. Most likely because vacation me day drinks, but who’s judging?

No alarms. No schedules. Thanks to Covid no plans at all.

In the past I’d have to figure out how to visit family and friends – but not this year. Nope. Vacation me and pandemic me are a perfect match.

Am I cooking big family meals? Nope! I’m saving restaurants by not cooking and only ordering in. You’re welcome!

Am I schlepping to my relatives houses and dragging my kids along? Nope! I’m saving lives by not seeing anyone, including my own kids. Kidding.

Vacation me is so funny. Not a care in the world. Well that’s a lie, but you know what I mean.

I hope you’re taking time off. I hope your heart is getting lighter. I hope you are letting go of all the crap 2020 laid on us. It’s not easy, I know. Do what I do. Take a deep, slow breath and exhale it all out.

Vacation me has all the answers.

Vacation me thinks all will be well.

Let’s go with that. Xoxo

2011 in 2020

Way back in 1995, we were gifted a very special ornament from a Pier One collection called Li Bien. These are hand painted from the inside (which is what li bien means in Chinese, from the inside) and each one has the year on it.

This started a tradition. Our first tradition ever.

And a collection. Every year since then we are gifted another one. Sometimes two. I love them. I have dreams of my kids taking them to their homes. And the packaging! For me it’s all about the packaging. These little beauties come in a velvet box.

This year, since we’re all trapped at home together, the kids and my husband helped me decorate the tree. A job that usually takes me 2 hours was done in 15 minutes. Mostly because the crew wanted it over and done with. Still counts as family time right?

As we were unpacking the ornaments, I was telling the kids – for the millionith time – about how much these mean to me etc. I was also telling my 17 year old son who is all arms and legs to be gentle, delicate. As I said this, I went and dropped an ornament. A Le Bien ornament. 2011 to be exact.

I was devastated. I wanted to throw-up.

I know there are bigger things to be upset about. I tried to pretend it was ok. My husband, who is usually one to make a big joke out of a mistake like that, stayed silent. He knew.

I took a deep breath and shook it off. It’s just our ONLY yearly tradition. No biggie. It’s just the ONE thing we have that connects us to family through time and space. It’s fine.

Cut to last night. When my husband brought in this little gem.

He went on Ebay, found the old ornament, and got it for me.

And I cried.

When people ask me how it’s possible that I married someone I met at 19 and never looked back – it’s because of this story. And a hundred others like it.

He knows me, from the inside.

Gobbled 2020

Happy Sunday night! I hope you all had a good/weird Thanksgiving. Doesn’t it feel like it was a year ago? Tomorrow it’s back to work. Which isn’t so bad, but it’s not as good as sleeping, let’s be honest.

You know that line from Elf? The one where he says, “smiling is my favorite.” Well for me, sleeping is my favorite. Oh I love it so much. My bed. My pillow. My very unsexy pjs. Love it all.

Two friends of mine both just recently recommended CBD to me. Independently. They just started taking it at night and now they sleep like a baby. Lucky for me, I’ve always been a big baby. No sleep issues here.

I’m always worried when I hear that excessive sleeping is a sign of depression. I mean… what’s excessive? That’s a very broad word. Like when they say, “that’s an excessive amount of wine.” Tomato, tOEmato.

This blog wasn’t supposed to be about sleeping. I digressed.

Anyway, our turkey day was great – I started it by digging into the apple pie, which I had with my morning coffee watching the Macy’s Parade (sad spectacle). I decided since it was 2020 and we need to do literally anything to makes ourselves happy right now, that I could cut right into the store bought pie with no feelings of guilt or weirdness. I was wrong ofcourse. Guilt and weirdness are like my home-base. I end up there whether I like it or not. Pie was still delicious.

The rest of the day was a blur of activity – not as quiet as I thought it would be. But Kera and I squeezed in a walk. We live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, Bucks County. It’s got the best of all worlds all around it. Philadelphia, New York City, the beach and everything in between. You wanna go to Target, go left. You wanna go to the Delaware Canal, go right. It’s amazing. So we walked. Never in a million years – pre-covid years – could I take a walk on Thanksgiving day. So I guess thanks Covid? It was great.

It was just the four of us that night at dinner but it felt full and complete. I missed our other family, but sitting at a candle lit table with just our little humans was just as good. Food wise? Let’s see – I ran out of turkey for reasons to be explained at another time. The mac and cheese and stuffing both were over cooked and dried out. But my husband crunched his way through dinner and the kids were sweet about it. It’s fine. It wasn’t our last meal.

I hope you had a good day and a good weekend. Now, it’s time to take some CBD, have a piece of pie or give yourself a heavy pour of vino. This holiday is a wrap, but no worries, there’s another one right around the corner.

Goodnight.

Biscotti blues

Last week I made my first biscotti. I followed a Cook’s Illustrated recipe because it used melted butter. I’m all about the melted butter recipes these days – mostly because I never plan ahead and get butter to room temperature in time to bake. And when you melt the butter, and happen to forget to check it, it turns even better! It becomes brown butter. Deep, nutty flavored magic. Laziness pays off here – don’t tell my kids. The recipe also used classic flavors like citrus and almond, how bad could it be? That night we were meeting some friends for dinner so I boxed my new creations and proudly presented them. This is the text I got later that night…

Umm what?? 4 out of 10?? Now, to be fair I asked for an honest, critical review since it was my first time making them. But when I said honest I didn’t mean honest…geez. Ok fine, I’ll never use citrus again. I wish citrus was dead. But even with no zest I’d only get a 6 out 10! Still a fail! A fail!

So I did what any normal person would do – I read 1,000 biscotti recipes and reviews and planned my revenge. Revenge for what you ask? All he did was tell the truth. So I guess revenge for honesty. That’ll teach him.

So today was round 2.

I adapted my recipe using both the Cook’s recipe with King Arthur’s American Vanilla Biscotti recipe. But I didn’t leave it to that – nope – I messed with it further with my very own twist. That’s right bitches. I browned the butter. Boom.

Ok here’s the bastardized version… I’m making two versions from one dough. Classic Almond and chocolate chip.

  • 1 stick of salted butter (this is the kind we have. If you have unsalted use that and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the dry mix)
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups of AP flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup sliced toasted almonds (you can use whole and just chop up)
  • Preheat oven to 350

Brown that stick of butter on medium heat. This is what it’ll look like when ready.

Remove from heat add the sugar right into the brown butter

Add the vanilla and almond extracts (are these not the cutest measuring spoons ever?? Thank you Marcela!)

It’ll look nice and smooth and bonus – it helps to cool down the butter so you can add the eggs right in. But buyer beware, once the egg goes in stir stir stir! It’s still a warm mix and you don’t want scrambled egg biscotti!

Combine the flour and baking powder with your buttery mix and you’ll get a very wet dough. You’ll now doubt the dough and think you’ve made a mistake. You haven’t. Leave it alone for 10 min. Which is exactly the time you need to toast your almonds!

I did them at 300 degrees and checked them every other minute. Why? Because I’m a notorious nut burner. I’ve burned almost every level ever toasted. From pine to peanut – burnt them all.

This is the color you want. Not any darker.

Go back to your dough, which should be manageable but still sticky. Cut in half and add the chips and almonds.

Bake for 25 minutes

My loaves are wider than I wanted – but so are my thighs – nothing’s perfect.

For the second bake reduce the temperature to 325

I cut my logs in half because they were too big. I like a two bite biscotti. If you’re ok with a gigantic one – don’t cut it in half.

This time they go in for 30 min. But after 15, it’s important to not only turn the pan, but also flip each biscotti – which is a pain in the ass but worth it!

And viola! Here are two different ways I wanted to end this post. I couldn’t pick so included both.

Ending 1) Now box them up and give them to everyone but the dude who told you the truth… just kidding just kidding.

Ending 2) So here they are – revenge biscotti! Like regular biscotti but baked with bitterness and anger. Just kidding. Just kidding.

East Should Not Meet West!

STOP THE MADNESS! Somewhere I think Sophia Loren is turning in her grave.

I know, I know – lots of things wrong with that statement. First of all, Sofia Loren isn’t dead. But you know she would be horrified. Second of all, stop the madness!

Turmeric is good. Agreed. Not arguing that. Before all the “woke” people in the world found it, my parents were pushing it like they were herbal pimps. It played a huge part in my life – just ask the drawer full of stained Tupperware in mom’s house.

But why… WHY…do we have to go off the deep end??

Pasta with turmeric?? Who is this for? Are there pasta lovers that refuse to eat foods that normally have turmeric?? They can’t just have chicken tikka masala once a month like normal people? What’s next? Pasta with adobo? Pasta with sumac?

Please. Stop mixing shit up. Leave something alone…I’m begging you! You know what I expect from my box of 99 cent Ronzoni? Literally nothing. I expect no nutrients. I expect mostly empty carb calories. It’s fine. Leave. It. Alone. Go ruin something else.

Pandemic schmandemic

When this first started it was scary and jolting and downright horror movie-like. Many things about 2020 still are. Hundreds of thousands of people dead, businesses shuttered, jobs lost, all awful. I know it’s serious. I am not making light of that at all. I know this is no joking matter…but humor is how I deal. If I’m not laughing, I’m crying. Which I think is the definition of a psycho or a clown. I’m one of those for sure. Or both.

Anyway there were/are some small, happy turn of events in all this madness. Things that were little spots of joy, and I’m not talking about sourdough starters.

1) Plans got cancelled. Really important things got cancelled like weddings and birthdays and baby showers – which is awful. But I have to be honest. I was overextended. Weekends booked for months on out, a calendar full of plans (all good stuff). It simply evaporated. Poof. Gone. Once I got over the initial sting, it was all ok. There was no FOMO (fear of missing out) because nothing was happening. We were all finally in the same boat. Home. Isolated. I know it wasn’t good for everyone. I know I was lucky to be baking and cooking and puzzling, while others struggled. I do know that. I’m just so grateful for my time. It was surreal and odd, but also kinda great.

2) Masks are fine with me. I’m gonna tell you a secret. People are fucking disgusting. They snort, they sneeze, they walk around with pneumonia with not a care in the world. People are DIRTY. They just are. I know, I know, not you! Never you! But other people. They don’t wash their hands. They don’t cover their mouths. They are walking geysers of germs. Exploding at every turn. We needed a good dose of hand sanitizer in our lives. Some more than others.

3) Outdoor restaurants with people seated 6 feet away from you. Genius! Let’s never go back! I never want to be in a packed bar or restaurant again. Ever. I want all of them to do well but I don’t want to ever feel like a sardine again. No reservation, no service? I’m in!

4) Teens and kids with minimal places to go. I don’t know about you, but my family had more family meals together in March and April then we’ve had for years! Sometimes we had MULTIPLE meals together at the table. WTF!

5) Office time productivity was always a scam. Someone put that on a pillow. We never needed to commute!! Grrrrr! All those hours on the train for what? So we could be in person for meetings that should have been emails?? Or commute in so you could sit at your desk on calls all day? As god is my witness I’m never doing that again… I mean until they make me…then of course I’ll do it again.

6) We cooked. A lot. I love to cook but this much cooking was next level. And we baked. And by “we”’I don’t mean my family. I mean me and the collective universe. We cooked and baked a lot. I think I made 1 million egg sandwiches. I also made eggplant bolognese, Thanksgiving turkey in April, cookies, cakes, and on and on. Not all of it was good, r.i.p vegetarian matzo ball soup, but most was. Just ask my pre-Covid pants.

7) Pods!! Pods!! We have a pod. A group of people who we have been lucky enough to live next to that has saved our sanity! We are safe. We don’t travel. We wear masks. It’s not perfect but it’s kept me happy. Backyard get togethers, front yard get togethers… thank goodness for these times with friends who became family.

When this comes to an end (come on vaccine!) I hope we continue some pandemic traditions. Not too many people in the store, zoom calls from near and far, free weekends, and disinfectant everywhere… that was enjoyable.

What helped you? What got you through? I’d love to know. We are almost there…

Scenes from a pandemic…

One of 8 puzzles we did March – May
Zoom, zoom, zoom
Masks on! They love it when I show people this pic
Pod!
Food for the pod !
Dessert for the pod!

Toasty soup for a toasty day

It’s not exactly sweater weather this weekend. It’s been warm and sunny and beautiful in PA. But way back on Tuesday – when it was chilly, I bought some butternut squash in hopes of making a soup. I googled a couple of recipes for a chilled soup but decided to do my usual. It’s so easy and so good.

Start by roasting the squash with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Maybe 15 minutes considering I scorched mine.

Once the butternut squash is done sauté a small onion until translucent and add some ginger if you have it. I’ve now reverted to buying chopped garlic and ginger. I know fresh is better. I don’t care. I blame 2020.

Once the onions are done, add the squash.

You can snack on the bits that burnt to the pan and act like you meant to do that.

Add 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil.

Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and blend.

Add a little heat (you know I can’t help myself)

Now add a little honey for sweetness. Look at my cute little honey jar. My husband’s beloved aunt made them. She’s so stinking talented. Every time we go to visit her I wander in her studio and somehow beg my way to several pieces. I’m shameless. One day everyone will be able to order from Kathy Gray Clay (if I can help it).

Ok back to the recipe… add about a 1/3 cup of heavy cream. I bought light by mistake but it’s fine. Either one works. I bet even coconut cream would work.

And viola! Serve in your beautiful Kathy Gray Clay bowls and you’re ready for a rocking Sunday night.

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