Category Archives: Food

sunday salon/currently… 9/18/2016

Sunday Salon bannerHaving a lazy Sunday today.  I had all good intentions of going the park for a walk/run this morning before the humidity became too oppressive but I woke up feeling blah. Nothing major, just a slight headache and minor stomach woes. It the sort of day where the weather can’t make up its mind: in the course of my writing this paragraph, it has been cloudy, then raining, and now it is brilliant sunshine.  (And 20 miles away at the Steelers game, it was a monsoon.)

Reading/Listening … 
My commute has been rather maddening recently, thanks to a ridiculous amount of construction going on in this town and the hell that is the (now indefinite) closure of the Liberty Bridge. Being that this is the City of Bridges with more than 400 of ’em, you would think one being shut down wouldn’t be a big deal, right? Not quite. This is a major bridge, traveled by 55,000 people each day. I’m not one of them, but if you need to go anywhere in the vicinity of the Liberty Bridge, you’re feeling the pain of some miserable drives. Such times are when and podcasts and audiobooks become your best friend.


This week I started and finished listening to Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. I thought this was an excellent narrative about the many ways our society approaches the end of life. As a physician, Gawande knows firsthand how medicine offers unprecedented possibilities for extending one’s life, no matter what the cost. But that cost can be physically, mentally, and financially significant, and our society still doesn’t have a strong enough support system and options that allow people to age in place.  As a result, the burden on people is tremendous. Gawande illustrates this by sharing the experiences of his patients and family members, and the result is a thoughtful reflection of how we treat the sick and the dying.

The Girl and I were out all day yesterday, so I made Salsa Chicken (from Make It Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O’Dea) in the crockpot for dinner. (Because nobody in this house can eat the same thing, The Husband had leftover burritos and rice, and I had a quinoa bowl with tomatoes, corn, black beans and feta.)

While that was cooking, I had a second crockpot going. I keep a bag in the freezer of vegetable odds and ends — tops of bell peppers and onions, gnawed corn cobs, broccoli stalks, ends of string beans, and veggies nearing the end of their prime. When the bag gets full, I dump everything into the crockpot, cover with water, toss in some garlic and spices (basil, oregano, salt, pepper) and simmer for the entire day.  It makes a vegetable broth with much less sodium than commercial brands. I typically freeze this into ice cubes and use the broth for sauteing. Tonight I made minestrone soup and was glad I had the required four cups of broth ready to go.

I applied for a writing fellowship this week. Might be a bit of a long shot, but one never knows. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

On Thursday I started Week 2 of Couch to 5K. So far, so good!  I keep promising a longer post about this, I know. Maybe later this week.

Thanks for sharing this post!

Weekend Cooking: Home Cooking (97/99)

Weekend Cooking - New

A few weeks ago, our Weekend Cooking host extraordinaire Beth Fish Reads posted about food items that we make at home versus those bought in the store.  I’m on a two-fold quest to pare down our grocery bill as much as possible while trying to eat (and serve the family) less processed foods.

As I write this, I have a vegetarian taco meat mixture in the crockpot (lentils and quinoa) that I’m hoping will be an occasional replacement for Beyond Meat, which our family loves but (like most meat substitutes) is pricey. The recipe also called for taco seasoning, something I don’t typically use, but this recipe seemed like one that might benefit from it. Fortunately, the cookbook I’m using had one with all the spices I had on hand.

When thinking about what I currently make from scratch, I realized the list isn’t very extensive:

Guacamole – Mine isn’t real guac (like Beth Fish’s recipe) but instead just smashed avocado and tomato sprinkled with a pinch of kosher salt. Since I’m the only person in the house who eats it, this works fine.

Vegetable Broth/Stock – I started doing this last winter, saving up scraps of vegetables and freezing them in a big bag. It’s especially easy in the crockpot — just dump in your bag of frozen veggies, add enough water to cover them, toss in a bay leaf or two and maybe some parsley, and cook it on low for the whole day. I think I let mine simmer for at least eight hours. Making broth is on my agenda this weekend so I can get a head start on all the soups awaiting us this fall.  (I tend to make a big pot on Sundays in autumn. One of my favorite things about this season is football on TV and a crockpot simmering away in the kitchen.)

Chicken Tenders – For the same price (or less) than a box of chicken tenders, you can make your own. They’re also much less processed. I coat mine with egg and breadcrumbs (with some parmesan cheese sprinkled in) and try to make enough to have leftovers during the week. That never happens because the kids always devour them.

Marinara Sauce – I haven’t made marinara sauce for awhile, but I need to do so more often. This recipe for making marinara sauce in the crockpot was one that we really liked.

Muffins – I’m not much of a baker, but I do like homemade muffins. More importantly, the kids do, too. Banana Chocolate Chip seem to be popular and there was a pumpkin muffin several years ago that was well-received. Our oven hasn’t been preheating properly and I’ve been putting off getting it looked at, especially since we don’t use it much during the summer months.  I’ve seen some recipes where you can bake quick breads and such in the crockpot using a small loaf pan, but that makes me nervous.  If you’ve tried that with good results, let me know.

Other items I’d like to start making include hummus, pancakes and egg muffins. There are probably many others but those are all I can think of right now. What about you?  What do you make from scratch versus buying at the store?

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #97 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 


Thanks for sharing this post!

Weekend Cooking: The Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood

The Edible Woman

Margaret Atwood, one of literature’s most beloved and prolific authors, is best known for her books such as The Handmaid’s Tale (one of my all-time favorite novels) as well as her nonfiction and poetry and so many other works in various genres.

Not many people seem to know about her first novel, The Edible Woman, published in 1969 but written several years earlier. I certainly didn’t until I spotted this at the library and was immediately intrigued.

Set in the 1960s, Marian is a 20-year-old professional woman living in Toronto.  She’s gainfully employed at Seymour Surveys, a market research/advertising firm. Early in the novel, she becomes eligible for being vested with a pension. Her ruminations upon completing the paperwork gives readers who are familiar with Atwood’s work a glimpse into the themes she is brilliantly developing in The Edible Woman.

“Somewhere in front of me a self was waiting, pre-formed, a self who had worked during innumerable years for Seymour Surveys and was now receiving her reward. A pension. I foresaw a bleak room with a plug-in electric heater. Perhaps I would have a hearing aid, like one of my great-aunts who had never married. I would talk to myself; children would throw snow balls at me. I told myself not to be silly, the world would probably blow up between now and then; I reminded myself I could walk out of there the next day and get a different job if I wanted to, but that didn’t help. I thought of my signature going into a file and the file going into a cabinet and the cabinet being shut away in a vault somewhere and locked.” (pg. 15)

There’s so much in just this one paragraph:  a self was waiting, pre-formed … perhaps I would have a hearing aid, like one of my great-aunts who had never married … the world would probably blow up between now and then … being shut away in a vault somewhere and locked. 

The Edible Woman continues along this path. Atwood’s writing is sharp and purposeful –especially when she cleverly uses food metaphors.

“–my mind was at first as empty as though someone had scooped out the inside of my skull like a cantaloupe and left me only the rind to think with.” (pg. 86)

Food becomes even more dominant when Marian becomes engaged to Peter. What should be a happy time becomes worrisome when, soon after the engagement, Marian gradually begins losing the ability to eat. No one can figure out why.  (Clearly, this was in a time before everyone graduated from the Medical School of Google.)

But it doesn’t take a physician or a prescription to know that the real issue eating away at Marian is the fear of being devoured by another person and being consumed, losing her sense of self in the process.

Suffice it to say if The Handmaid’s Tale resonated with you, chances are you will appreciate The Edible Woman for its similar messages of feminism, relationship issues, women in the workforce, male hierarchy — and, yes, for its innovative and timeless way of using food to bring these issues into our consciousness.

The Edible Woman
by Margaret Atwood 
1998 (first published in 1969) 
310 pages 


Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.


99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #90 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

Thanks for sharing this post!

thursday randomness (88/99)

Sky - 8-25-2016

evening sky tonight, 8/25/2016

– Driving to work this morning, there were two cars ahead of me — one in the left lane and the other directly in front of me.  Left Lane Car’s license plate said INSANE2.  The other car had a Trump bumper sticker.  I found this rather amusing.

– We tend to listen to music (via The Husband’s Spotify playlist) while having breakfast, preparing last minute lunches, etc.  Yesterday was the first day of school and surprisingly, both kids didn’t give me too much of a hard time about taking their picture.  They refuse to pose together, of course, so we do individual shots.  As I’m doing this, Rod Stewart’s “Forever Young” comes on, which was sort of ironic. And cool.

– I don’t want to jinx anything but so far, so good with the beginning of high school. Thank you God. I really couldn’t have handled a repeat of last year.

– I tried Iranian food today from Conflict Kitchen in Oakland and discovered that I like salad-e shirazi.

– A new school year means it’s time for me to sign up for new MOOCs that I likely won’t finish.  (I’m not alone; did you know only 9% of people who sign up for a free online course actually complete the whole thing?)  Anyway, I’ll be giving Modern and Contemporary Poetry a try again this fall along with Greek and Roman Mythology. Both offered online, free, through the University of Pennsylvania. (I certainly hope my deceased Mom-Mom has taken notice of this so she can tell all of her friends in heaven that her granddaughter is a student at Penn). I’m also doing a Latin course via a language program because The Girl is taking Latin this year and I always wanted to but probably wasn’t considered smart enough for, back in my high school.

– Out of nowhere, The Boy just initiated a discussion with me about feminism (“are you a feminist, Mom?” to which I answered with my oft-used sarcastic line that has gotten much use this week, “I’m sorry, are you new here?”). What followed was one of the longest, all-encompassing conversations we have ever had — about history, women’s rights, racism, literacy rates among men and women, how one’s feminist beliefs are formed and more. (I don’t know what the hell they’re teaching at that high school, but if this is any indication, my tax dollars are being well-spent.)

– Ten more of these 99 Days of Summer Blogging posts to go. I’m feeling like I’m just coasting at this point and it probably shows, but whatever. Just sayin’, don’t be surprised to see more of these types of posts.


Thanks for sharing this post!

the back to school milkshake (87/99)


We’re officially back to school now, and because of such, The Girl needed some one-on-one time the other night in the form of a dinner out at Eat’n Park. A luxury splurge these days, but one made easier with a gift card on hand.

And a milkshake. *

* Rest assured, that concoction above is definitely not mine.  I’ve been given six months to try and improve my cholesterol and triglyceride levels with diet and exercise **, so milkshakes are definitively out of the question.

** More on that in another post.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #87 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project


Thanks for sharing this post!

Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Corn, Black Beans, and Feta

Quinoa Salad

When I first tried quinoa, I thought it was horrid. And this disappointed me tremendously because quinoa is one of those grains that seems to be a staple in the gluten-free diet and one that everyone loves.

I’m not sure when my feelings for quinoa changed, but I know it had something to do with it being served cold, rather than warm.

Suddenly, I loved it and couldn’t get enough.

This summer, I’ve been making a variation of this simple salad. It’s so flexible and easy. You can eliminate an ingredient or add others, such as onion, cucumber or avocado.

Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Corn, Black Beans, and Feta

one package of Trader Joe’s fully cooked organic quinoa (so easy; just microwave)
half of a corn on the cob
canned black beans, about a cup or so, drained and rinsed
1 yellow plum tomato
1/2 of a red beefsteak tomato
handful of feta cheese
You could also add onion and/or avocado.

Mix together.  Refrigerate.  Enjoy.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #85 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

Thanks for sharing this post!

when life gives you lemons, eat tomatoes (82/99)


tomatoes, from the neighbor’s garden and my coworker’s farm share, photo taken by me, august 2016.

“Back when [Former Owner of Our House] lived here, we would have just shot ’em.”

The Neighbor is speaking with The Husband about the gigantic possum and raccoon that are co-habitating underneath our backyard shed. They aren’t long for this earth if The Neighbor has anything to do with it. Seems they’ve been gorging themselves by eating three square meals a day from his elaborate garden, a crime punishable by death.

I was aghast until I remembered that we live in Western Pennsylvania, a corner of the universe where the start of hunting season means kids get an official day off from school.  Seriously.  For real.  I guess this is what people do here — go around shooting the backyard wildlife.

Immediately after sharing with The Husband his plans for setting traps for the backyard pests (“he’s going to be cleaning up the remains after his handiwork, I assume?” I replied), The Neighbor asked if we liked tomatoes. Apparently Mr. Possum and Ms. Raccoon aren’t fond of them because despite eating the Neighbors out of house and home and garden, they have an abundance of them.  Last night, he came to the door bearing a bag of perfectly ripe tomatoes.

And then today, a coworker was out of the office and she asked me if I would like to have her CSA share for this week. (The front of our building is a drop-off point.) Sure, I said, grateful for her generosity.  Among the CSA items were, of course, several luscious tomatoes, which have now overtaken my kitchen counter.

I’m not complaining though.  It’s been a tough couple of days. Everyone’s generally fine but we’re all under a significant amount of stress for various reasons.  The tomatoes are a small thing, really, but I’m thankful for the kindness of The Neighbor and The Coworker for saving us a few dollars off this week’s grocery bill.

Everyone knows when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

But when life gives you tomatoes?

You make the best damn sauce possible.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #82 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

Thanks for sharing this post!