Category Archives: Food Cult

Day 145: A Lot of Fun and A Little Knowledge

You may be wondering what happened to me over the last week or so. Life got in my way.

I worked with a family member to book a cruise vacation; because I’m new at this, it took a lot of time and energy. But I learned a lot and am ready to work at my friend’s travel agency for the next week while she vacations in Europe. I’ve been training with her on a regular basis; I don’t feel very “retired.”

I photographed a friend’s glass party. I was scared to death, but it all turned out well. Some of my photos were even good.

We also had a series of social events that just plain wore me out. It’s hell getting old. Going to the Angels Ball to support Rainbow Hospice is always fun, but Music Man and I are both having knee issues. He was a good sport and danced anyway to the amazing band, The Gentlemen of Leisure Band. Awesome music! We played a band concert with the American Wind Band, and I had a solo that was a little nerve-wracking. We celebrated Music Man’s birthday with friends in their home for a lovely surf-and-turf dinner. We also had friends and family in from out-of-town and we went to Saigon Sisters and Kiki’s Bistro for fabulous food and enjoyed visiting. Fun, fun, fun, but by Friday I ran out of steam.

Knowing what happens to me when I’m exhausted (it isn’t pretty, folks), I decided to take a break from the world and I read two books in two days for close to 1000 pages. The Casual Vacancy, J.K. Rowling’s new adult novel (512 pages), was engaging and worth reading, but its teenage “disaffected youth” characters brought me too close to the kind of kids I want to avoid. Rowling is very concerned about disadvantaged youth and it was an integral part of this novel, which is ostensibly about filling a vacancy on a local government council in small-town England. Bring Up the Bodies (432 pages) is the second book in a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s councilor. It’s rare that I read a book where I learn something new about the Tudors, but Hilary Mantel’s research is wide-ranging and she sheds a new light on Cromwell. It was really good for me to take a break; I needed the solitude and quiet to re-energize.

After that mini-break from life,  I’m back on the exercise and eating-right wagon and tomorrow I go to the office full-time again. I know just enough to be dangerous; I’m a little scared of what I could do to Nadya’s computer system. Keep me in your thoughts; I’m hoping that good karma will hold me up while she’s gone.

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Day 137: In search of a pain au chocolat

I wasn’t asking for much — or so I thought.

A yearning for a simple chocolate croissant has emerged on my consciousness like an enormous elephant standing in front of my garage door. It won’t get out of the way.

I just finished reading a surprisingly good book called French Lessons in which French food plays an important part. Obviously when one is learning to speak French, ordering from a menu and choosing items in markets becomes very important. As the reviewers of this book say, the best part of it is Sussman’s vivid descriptions of Paris and I just wanted a pastry. That shouldn’t be so hard to find, should it?

This started last week; I went to my favorite bakery and was absolutely positive they would be able to satisfy my craving. Mais non! They only make pain au chocolat on the weekends.

Today I decided that I was going to find me some chocolate croissant action — I mean, give me a break. How hard can this be?

First I went to Corner Bakery, where I’m absolutely sure I’ve seen chocolate pastries many times. NOPE. Then I figured I would find something at Starbucks. NOPE again.

I was out of time so I caved in and got my second favorite guilty pleasure, a Rice Krispie treat and a lovely dark cup of coffee. Yummy, but not what I was craving.

While I was at it, I decided to try some more food photography practice, so I arranged said treat and the coffee on my lovely fall plates. My photography is getting better — I did this without flash in a fully manual mode. The big white coffee cup didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, though. I’m still learning, but I’m better than I was last week and the week before that.

Retirement is being very good to me, but I am still looking for that chocolate. Any ideas??

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Day 118: Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom

I’ve read a lot about Julia Child this summer and I’ve written a lot about her, too.

All you have to do is go to my search field on Got My Reservations and type in Julia Child — you’ll get a lot of links to previous posts.

I’ve even got the large-print edition of Bob Spitz’s new biography of Julia Child entitled, Dearie. At 1008 pages, I don’t think I’ll be lugging it to the gym with me. It’s going to stay on my bedside table. No, I didn’t NEED the large print; it was just what the library had available.

What I have found out in “my summer of Julia Child” is that you really only have to buy one small cookbook to get the essence of Julia’s kitchen wisdom.

Julia and her editor David Nussbaum created a kitchen Bible that has modernized and crystallized all of Julia’s essential teachings into one small volume.

What Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom doesn’t have is the formatting that Julia sweated bullets over when creating Mastering the Art of French Cooking. What it does have is Julia’s cooking notes from her loose-leaf binder that she kept in her kitchen and they are fun to read as well as to cook with.

I’m putting this cookbook on my Amazon wish list and so should you.

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Day 117: Fifty Shades of Chicken

A funny for you today…

I kinda want this book.

Be sure you read the text on the Barnes and Noble page. You will laugh out loud, especially if you’ve read the other Fifty Shades books.

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Day 115: The Best Little Carrot Pineapple Cupcakes Recipe

For a baby shower I attended recently, I was asked by the new mom to make one of her comfort foods — carrot pineapple cupcakes with cream cheese icing. And NO NUTS! I stumbled across pretty much the best recipe ever, and was asked to share the recipe by many friends.

What makes these cupcakes so delicious is that about half of the batter is chopped carrots and crushed pineapple. Combined with some oil, these cupcakes are amazingly moist. You have to hold them carefully to frost them because they are so moist that they are delicate to the touch. I’ve made the recipe twice and they were equally good the second time. This recipe is a keeper.

Since you are all technologically competent, I’m just going to share the link from allrecipes.com for the best Carrot Pineapple Cupcakes ever.

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Day 114: What Am I Thinking?

I just posted a link on Got My Reservations that commits me to posting every day in October. Apparently, I should be committed.

Yet I’m hopeful about this project. I have a lot of material in my photo archives to use and I’m working at making my posts shorter, although you’d never know it from the Sunday Review posts or the self-examination posts I’ve been doing here at Retirement 365.

Short and sweet. That’s my motto for October. I’ll hope you’ll join me this month on the “other side.”

Day 102: Basil Pesto

If you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what to do with all of that basil in your garden.

Make pesto!

First you need to gather together your ingredients — you probably already have them in your house.

Put in all in the food processor and chop till smoothish.

Note: If you are freezing some of it, don’t put the cheese in. Small deli tubs or small plastic bags hold the perfect amount — I fill the ziploc bag, flatten it, label it, and put it on a tray to freeze flat for easy storage. Add the cheese when you defrost the pesto.

Boil up some whole wheat pasta, put the fresh pesto on top and garnish with fresh tomato, more cheese, and basil leaves. It’s an easy, healthy, and yummy meal.

There are many recipes for basil pesto on the internet. Here’s Food Network’s version, which I use often.

This version from And Then She Snapped does not use olive oil, which is what I did in the these photos. If you’re trying to save a few fat calories in your day, you can do pesto without the oil, but it’s better with it.

To me, basil pesto is addictive.

Once I crack open the fresh container, I use it in everything — try it on your scrambled eggs or omelette, on your sandwich as a seasoning, or on your steamed veggies. You can season fish with it, and even use it as a base for a pizza.

P.S. I used to own this cookbook and it’s missing. Did I lend it to you?

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Day 92: Eating Organic(ally)*

A friend of mine told me that I’d spend more money in the first year of retirement than I did while teaching.

If this summer has been any indication of that, I am thinking he’s right. Every day I have a list of stuff — little stuff, mind you — to pick up. Most of these things are pent-up items that just needed to be done, but there are also some big-ticket items on my lists. And since I started entering the purchases on Quicken instead of Music Man doing it, I can see the daily totals with clarity. Scary.

That being said, I’m really happy with this week’s purchases.

I’ve been unsure about whether I wanted to talk about this on the blog, but here goes. In my retirement plan to get healthy, I included a 21 day purification program. It’s not a fast and there’s nothing unsafe about it, but the requirements are somewhat stringent. First on the list is that all fruits and veggies must be organic. Did you know that organics spoil rapidly? I guess I knew that intellectually; it makes sense, of course. I didn’t quite get it in practice, though. The first time I let a box of organic raspberries mold, it was soul-wrenching, not to mention a waste of good money.

So I’m at the grocery store pretty often. I think I’ve been there every day this week.

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The good news is that after five days, I’m getting a handle on how to manage the fruit and veg issue. I’ve also come up with some new recipes — the beet and carrot slaw was quite tasty. The bad news is that I found out my store doesn’t stock its organic shelves as often as I am at the store, so there were days that I saw entire shelves of wiped out stock. And then there was the day that I bought arugula instead of spinach. It was on the spinach shelf and I didn’t look at the tag. It kind of looks like spinach, doesn’t it? We’re eating arugula and kale in our salads, scrambled eggs, and I even put some in last night’s meatloaf. Hopefully these greens will become an acquired taste, because they’re very good for us!

The other side effect of eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, and lean meat is weight loss.

I’m down four pounds at the end of five days. Since I put on two pounds over Labor Day weekend, that’s a net of two pounds for the week so far, and that’s all I’m aiming for. I’m trying to do the turtle weight loss program; slow and steady will win this race.

* Even though the title would be more catchy without the adverb ending, I just couldn’t do it.

Day 88: Easy Corn Dip Recipe

Looking for something easy to take to a Labor Day party?

Here’s your answer. I made this for a party on Sunday and it disappeared — even the kids were eating it! Just click into the photo for the recipe.

P.S. I had planned to take this to the party in a mini-crockpot, but my mom’s old crockpot metal exterior heated up along with the crock inside and I burned myself. Does anyone have a suggestion for a mini-crockpot with a removable interior crock that you like?

Day 83: In My Little Town — Katie’s Kitchen

I love diner breakfast.

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It’s a fact that I cannot deny. Omelettes smothered in cheese and veggies. Crispy hash browns with the soft center. The bottomless cup of coffee. Yum and yum and yum again.

Being retired makes diner breakfasts with friends on weekdays a new possibility in my life and I’m taking advantage of it.

Options are endless in my area to celebrate diner breakfast and I visit them all.

I have breakfast in Buffalo Grove at The Buffalo with Michele — it’s halfway in between our houses, and we’ve been having Saturday gab fests there for years. Now that I’m retired and she teaches college students on the late shift, we can have breakfast during the week. Yay!

A local institution is the Egg Harbor Cafe, which I have described as my happy place. It’s fun to meet up with Melinda at Egg Harbor and catch up on our lives. Part of a regional chain, I know that I will have lots of choices at Egg Harbor.

There’s Mrs. V’s Restaurant in Des Plaines, which is a classic neighborhood diner with an extensive menu of lovely fried food.

Which brings us to my current favorite place to enjoy diner breakfast, Katie’s Kitchen in Des Plaines.

A quick strafe down Central takes me to this unassuming restaurant in a strip mall. You would never know from the street view or even from the classic diner decor what is in store for you when you choose your breakfast.

I have had the good fortune to have breakfast twice at Katie’s Kitchen — the first time was apparently a CRAFT * moment.

I went to Katie’s last week to meet friends for breakfast, but I got my date wrong. I was a week early. Not being a person who passes up an opportunity to have diner breakfast, I ordered anyway and ate by myself. I had the Midwest Egg White Scrambler with smoked salmon, onions, capers, tomatoes, and cream cheese for $9.99 and it was delicious. As you can see, the order included toast, fruit cup, and a corn relish.

On the RIGHT day, I met up with my friends for another round of diner breakfast.

Debbie W. had Katie’s specialty, the Sunrise Baked Oatmeal topped with dark sweet cherries, bananas, molasses, macadamia nuts baked with a cinnamon cobbler mix.

Debbie K. ordered blueberry pancakes with a strawberry and blueberry topping.

Since I just started a somewhat restricted diet, I went with a veggie omelette and fruit cup. I have to say, although I was very virtuous, my omelette would have benefitted from a little cheese. But that’s just me.

Katie’s Kitchen is also open on Friday evenings and has a BYOB policy. If you look at the menu, you’ll see that it’s typical diner food, but if it’s as good as the morning offerings, it’s certainly worth a try.

And just so you are clear, Katie does not serve baked oatmeal in the evenings. 🙂

* Can’t Remember a F %&# ing Thing (you insert the middle letters as you wish)

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