basil plants and pigeons


Eat your veggies…with cream sauce and lots of cheese. recipe

I purchased a live basil plant for this recipe. It seemed like a good idea at the time.  I thought it would be in a pot out on my back porch by now giving me an endless supply of basil for the summer. It is not. It is clinging to life, still in the plastic container on my kitchen window sill.

I have two problems. One is that it is barely getting above freezing in Chicago-land. My radiators are still running most mornings.  It is not exactly excellent weather for a thriving basil plant. Second is that in the very spot where I put my herb pots on my porch… because it gets the best light. It is also the spot where pigeons have decided they love to sit….and shit.  I prefer to have pigeon-shit-free fresh herbs.

How much is a plastic owl?



In the beginning there was lamb and couscous….

I admit it. I have been a blogging slacker. I made this meal long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

What I remember is that this recipe includes a whole cup of dates…a whole cup! It was uber-super-sweet and if you like that type of thing then you will like this. Me…not so much. Makes my teeth hurt just thinking about it.  I piled on the green onions to counteract the sticky sweet dessert-ness of it. Because, as we have discussed on this blog before, I am not a big fan of super-sweet, not in food or in personalities…give me a little spicy, complicated, sharp, tangy, tart or salty with my sweet. All alone it is flat and boring. I’m just saying.

muffin stuffin

Can we discuss this idea of Rachael Ray’s to use muffins to make stuffing? Because muffins are just way too sweet to make stuffing out of!  A little sweet would be good but muffins are too much. Of course I made the muffins so I guess I could have put less sugar in them. hindsight. I even was short one leek and so I used some shallot which should have helped! Thank goodness for the lemony gravy to balance it a little bit.

This meal does have an old school comfort food vibe about it…kind of makes me want to turn on Lawrence Welk and drink some Ernest & Julio Gallo Chablis. If only I had some canned peas and potato buds too. (okay not really. yuch)

ethnic inspired…

lamb patties, greek chop saladI’m not always big on Rachael Ray’s ethnically inspired stuff generally her American and Italian inspired recipes are her best.  Her noodle bowls are far too bland and boring for example (needs fish sauce), but these 2 recipes were fast, easy and yummy.  In both cases it is the salad that I loved. The Greek one with feta, cucumber, tomato and Kalamata olives and just some fresh lemon juice, olive oil and parsley. perfect. And the quick saute of napa cabbage and carrots with some gari (Japanese pickled ginger). wonderful. The grilled lamb patties and grilled teriyaki chicken were really the sidekicks in both meals.

hearty bolognese and sunny flowers for another dreary February night

pasta dinner for 2I WISH IT WOULD JUST STOP SNOWING! okay…I’m done now. I feel better. I can make it through March.

I bought the yellow flowers because I seem to believe that all flowers should be yellow… and they make me happy. I carry them from room to room with me like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail.  These are actually all droopy now (sniff)……maybe I will need a continuous supply of yellow flowers to get me through March.

So, this was an enormous bowl of pasta, way more than needed for the two of us, probably enough food for a small army. There were lots of leftovers for Nathan to take home and for me to take to work for lunch.  It wasn’t anything challenging or unique, just pasta with meat sauce, ricotta and fresh basil, but very satisfying on a winter’s evening with a bitter green salad and an amber beer or a glass of zinfandel…or both.

There was also a very big salad bowl which ends up being my version of fast food for the week. This time I just did arugula, radicchio and frisse, with a few thin slices of red onion. Then I just change the toppings for variety: different vinegars, oils, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, herbs, cheese, veggies, meat, etc.  Lettuce that I buy in a bunch/head, clean, salad-spin and put in a bowl myself seems to stay fresh longer than as those slightly funky bags o’ E. coli. I put a clean paper towel on top in the lettuce bowl in the fridge to absorb moisture. This also seems to help keep it from getting mushy immediately. Of course sometimes I am lazy and brave and buy the bags of E. coli.

please omit the frozen corn

crab & corn mac

Rachael Ray is extremely prolific, you can go to the store right now and purchase thousands of her recipes. Yes, many are virtually identical or slight variations of the same…but regardless there is still a dizzying number of them. Consequently there are a lot them that leave me with the reactions like ehh…, fine, and edible.  Of course there are also a few that are pretty horrible and a few that are really delicious. Crab and Corn Chowda-Mac, Rating = “ehh…”

This recipe goes a little something like this:

  1. cook some pasta shells
  2. fry some chopped bacon, then add chopped onions and celery, then chopped red bell pepper
  3. add some flour, then add some milk and chicken stock to make the sauce
  4. now add crab meat and frozen corn, heat through
  5. finally add cayenne pepper, fresh thyme and grated white cheddar cheese, until cheese is melted
  6. toss the cheesy mixture with the pasta shells.

Not a horrible idea.  It sounded like it might be good…but it didn’t work out that way. Here are my improvement suggestions if you are considering trying it.

  • Omit the corn and the chopped red bell pepper. I realize this is pulling two veggies, but just make a vegetable side dish. It could even have more nutritional value than corn and peppers!
  • Buy your groceries at Jewel, Kroeger, Walmart, CVS… I bought my usual from Whole Foods, pricey lump crab and aged white cheddar. Don’t do it! Go with the tuna-disc can of crab and the zip-lock pack of pre-shredded white cheddar cheese. It will be perfect, I promise.
  • And don’t use skim milk, like I did. You want “creamy” cheese sauce so at least go with 2%.

Nowadays, I may talk some trash about Ms. Ray…but once upon a time this cookbook was my go-to. The recipes weren’t intimidating, they only called for one or two pots/pans, and they often called for interesting ingredients that started out as a little scary and turned out to be delicious: anchovies, fennel, chipotle peppers.  And let’s be honest… I still go back to it; for convenience, to save money, and of course in the search for those hearty, homey recipes that somehow are so satisfying with such comparatively little effort. Her best are usually variations on pizza, burgers or pasta, although she also has a recipe for Chorizo-Cod-Potato Stew in this book that I absolutely love.