Song to the Moon

I happened to glance out at the moon tonight. It’s beautiful. I’m always amazed at how bright it can be. And how clearly you can see in the darkness.

There are things that I wish I could see clearly. Certain situations in my life that I wish I could sort and figure out. But unfortunately everything isn’t always so easy. And things are not so clear.

Lately, I’ve been in love with a song from the opera Rusalka by Dvorak. The aria is sung by Rusalka where she sings to the moon of her secret longing. Seems appropriate in more ways than one on this bright moon evening.

“Silver moon upon the deep dark sky,
Through the vast night pierce your rays.
This sleeping world you wander by,
Smiling on men’s homes and ways.
Oh moon ere past you glide, tell me,
Tell me, oh where does my loved one bide?
Oh moon ere past you glide, tell me
Tell me, oh where does my loved one bide?
Tell him, oh tell him, my silver moon,
Mine are the arms that shall hold him,
That between waking and sleeping he may
Think of the love that enfolds him,
May between waking and sleeping
Think of the love that enfolds him.
Light his path far away, light his path,
Tell him, oh tell him who does for him stay!
Human soul, should it dream of me, Let my memory wakened be.
Moon, moon, oh do not wane, do not wane,
Moon, oh moon, do not wane….”

Lentil and Sausage Soup…Thanks, Ina Garten!

I will have to admit. I love Ina Garten. I really like just watching her cook and listening to her voice…it’s so…soothing.

But every now and then I try a recipe of hers. Ok. More than every now and then. I use her vinaigerette all the time. And her roasted chicken recipe is a favorite here at house.

But one of my absolute favorite recipes of hers is Lentil and Sausage soup.

I’ve been watching my calories lately and this soup isn’t all that bad on the caloric chart.

First, start with carrot, onion, garlic, leeks, celery, fresh thyme, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook that all together with some olive oil in a Dutch oven.

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While that’s cooking, soak some lentils in some hot water. I just stick a Pyrex thing filled with water in the microwave for like 6 minutes. Then add the lentils to soak for 15 minutes.

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After the veggies are nice and soft, add chicken stock. Ok…lately I’ve been making my own stock. My culinary friend, Sheila, has convinced me to do so. And let me tell you, I’m a believer now. Make your own. So easy and so much better than that store bought stuff.

Chicken stock, drained and rinsed lentils, and a couple tablespoons of tomato paste. Let that simmer for like 30 minutes.

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After the lentils are cooked through and the veggies are done, add a package of kielbasa sausage, sliced into bite sized pieces. And here’s the best part, red wine vinegar. I don’t know what it is about that stuff but it makes this whole thing come together. Let it cook for another 15 minutes.

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Serve it up in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated Parmesan cheese.
Fantastic on a cold, rainy day.

Fettuccine with pancetta and red wine bolognese

This…is my all time favorite. If there is one dish in my cooking repertoire that I can say “Damn…that’s some good shit” and can be totally honest, it’s this dish.

Now, this isn’t a week night recipe. This is a all afternoon sort of thing. So it’s best for a Sunday night meal or for if you are trying to impress someone kind of thing.

Bolognese is a meat sauce that takes about 4 hours to cook. The ground meat absorbs all this delicious flavor from all the ingredients to make a complex and smooth tasting sauce that is probably the best thing you’ll ever eat with pasta. It’s the king of all meat sauce.

There are several variations of the sauce you can do. I think the traditional sauce is part ground beef, veal and pork with white wine. Sometimes I have a hard time finding ground pork and definitely ground veal. So I opt for the all ground beef, pancetta and red wine version. It’s just as delicious. So, here we go:

Start with 2 tablespoons of each: minced carrot, minced celery and minced onion. And also about 3 to 6
ounces of minced pancetta. Or however much you like. It’s delicious so add more, whatever. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a dutch oven. Add the veggies and pancetta. Cook until the veggies are soft.

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Then add your ground meat. I use a pound of the ground beef. Don’t use a extra lean ground beef. Go for a 85 lean 15 fat beef. You need some fat to make the sauce taste good. Add about a half teaspoon of salt. Cook until the meat is cooked through.

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Next, add a cup of WHOLE milk. None of that 2% stuff. Trust me. It won’t taste the same if you skimp on the fat. You’ll need to simmer this until all the milk is evaporated. You will see clear fat remaining as the only liquid in the pan.

Then add a cup of red wine. I used this delicious Ruffino.

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Simmer until the wine is evaporated.

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Then, a large can of diced tomatoes with their juices.

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Let it come to a simmer then turn the heat way down where there is only a few bubbles every now and then. Let it cook for about 3 hours until all the liquid is evaporated.

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Get some pasta cooking. I used fettuccine that I made. But any boxed pasta will work. I will have to show how I made this some other time.

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Once the pasta is ready, drain it leaving some water on the noodles and mix the sauce with the noodles. Add a couple of tablespoons of butter to the mix.

Then serve it up with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and the rest of the wine you used to cook with.

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The. Best. Thing. Ever.

Pork and cherry

Pork and cherry. A combination that I hadn’t noticed until just recently. And by golly it’s pretty darn tasty.

I had grilled a pork loin roast on the grill not too terribly long ago. I used cherry wood chips in my little wood chip tray on the grill. And the smoke flavored the meat wonderfully. Something about the sweetness of the smoke mixed well with the taste of the pork. I have tried it numerous times since then and it always turns out great.

Well tonight I made braised pork chops in cherry sauce. I got the recipe from a WS book that I purchased many years ago but had never tried that particular recipe until just recently. It’s a great recipe.

I buy these thick cut pork chops and season with salt, pepper and fresh rosemary.

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Now those things look good raw! Brown them off in a large skillet with butter and some olive oil. You kind of have to arrange them in a pinwheel shape in order for them to fit. I, for some reason, have a hard time remembering how to place them in there. But I guess the curved side of the chop goes on the outside edge of the pan. Like this:

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Once browned on both side, remove and place on a plate. They won’t be fully cooked through so don’t worry. Next, add some chopped up leeks and extra butter in the skillet. Cook until browned and soft. Then add some chicken stock, port (I didn’t have port so I used a red wine I had open at the time), and some balsamic vinegar. Next, half a cup of dried cherries. Mix all together then add the pork back in there.

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Cover and braise on medium low heat for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the chops.

Put a chop on a plate and cover with the cherry sauce. The dried cherries will have absorbed the wine and stock and plumped up. So good. And the pork will be so tender and flavorful.

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I served it with some roasted broccoli tonight. Pretty tasty!

Tuna pasta…thing

Or at least that’s what I call it when asked what’s for dinner. It’s official name is ‘Pasta and Garlic-Lemon Tuna Sauce with Capers and Parsley’. So yeah…tuna pasta…thing.

I really like this because it takes no time at all which makes it great for a weeknight meal. By the time you get the sauce ready the pasta pot has started to boil. And the whole thing tastes great! And most of the ingredients are already in your pantry or refrigerator.

It starts with olive oil in a large fry pan. Add garlic, capers, and red pepper flakes. The recipe I got this from says the capers should be drained and rinsed. I just drain but not rinse. I like the briny, salty taste. Let the whole thing start to sizzle and smell good. Add some white wine about half a cup. Cook until the alcohol sort of burns off. Then add one of those large cans of tuna. Yes, a can of tuna. I use the albacore tuna in water. Drain it before you add it to the pan along with some salt. Not too much because the capers are salty. Let the tuna warm through.

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Oh yeah, some water should be boiling to cook some pasta. I like penne because the capers get all stuck up in there. And they have that whole grain penne pasta. So you don’t have to feel all that bad about eating some pasta.

Drain the pasta, mix in the tuna mixture, some lemon zest, 3 tablespoons of butter, a tablespoon of minced garlic, and a handful of chopped parsley.

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It’s light, filling and delicious!

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Spaghetti with meatballs

Alright. I typically don’t think of spaghetti with meatballs when I think about cooking Italian food. It seems over done and pretty boring. I mean every Italian place has it on the menu and I never order it.
But I think that if you make it with good ingredients you can make it a favorite in your Italian cooking repertoire. And it is so easy!
One of my favorite things about this recipe is you can mix and shape the meatballs in advance and cover them in plastic wrap in the fridge until you are ready to cook them later that day. I’m a little OCD when it comes to getting things prepped before I start cooking. I think it makes the cooking experience that much more enjoyable when everything is ready to go when you need it. And you can relax and have a glass of wine while you are cooking!

The meatballs are easy. You can do all beef (what I did tonight) or a mixture of 3/4 lb of ground beef and 1/4 lb of ground pork. But I didn’t have any ground pork so I used a pound of ground beef. Take a couple of pieces of plain white sandwich bread, cut the crusts off, tear into small pieces and soak in 1/3 cup buttermilk. Mash it all together into a paste. Add that to the meat, some chopped parsley, grated Parmesan (none of that cheapy stuff), an egg yolk, minced garlic and salt and pepper. Mix it all together and make about 12 to 14 meatballs.

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Here is where you can refrigerate and cook later.

Add some oil to a sauté pan and brown them on all sides.

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It took these about 12 minutes to finish. I took a spatula and sort of unstuck them from the pan before turning them with some tongs. That helped keep them together, I think.

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Remove them to a paper towel lined plate.

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Ok, now the sauce. Drain all the oil from your pan leaving the brown goodies that remained from the meatballs. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and some garlic. Get it all sizzling and smelling good then add a large can of crushed tomatoes. Add some fresh basil and some salt and pepper.

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Put the meatballs in the sauce get them all coated and keep them warm while you cook the spaghetti. Once the noodles are done, drain and add a few spoonfuls of sauce. Then plate it up with some noodles, add a couple of meatballs, some additional sauce and cover with some freshly grated Parmesan. Delicious!

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Scones!

The coffee house down the street sells these flat triangular pastries that have dried up bits of blueberries in them. They call them blueberry scones. I suppose traditionally speaking scones are supposed to be like this and somewhat crunchy and not very…tasty?
I was interested in baking an Americanized version of this, I suppose. Something that was a little more fluffy and delicious. Something a bit sweeter. So I did some looking on the internet to find some scone recipes. I ran across a Martha Stewart recipe that I thought was what I was looking for. Using fresh blueberries instead of some dried fruit.
I started making them and at one point in the recipe it had me kneading the dough that had the blueberries in it. Well needless to say I ended up with a big blue wad of dough since all the blueberries burst. Even being extra careful there was no way that would work! I went on ahead and baked them. But they weren’t all that great, as you can imagine.

After this failed attempt I needed to redeem myself. So I found a Cook’s Illustrated recipe that was a bit more involved. But most of the time those guys at Cook’s know what they are talking about. I guess with scones and biscuits the idea is to have really cold butter. The recipe called for frozen sticks of butter that you grated with a box grater. I’ve never grated butter before. But when it’s frozen it grates up nicely. You mix the grated butter with the dry ingredients. Then add the wet ingredients which included milk and sour cream. Fold this into a dough ball, knead it a few times and then you roll it out into a 12 inch square. Then they had you fold the dough into thirds like a business letter and then fold the small ends of the dough on top of each other making a 4 inch square stack of dough. Into the freezer for 5 minutes. Then roll out again to 12 inch square (you can see the flecks of butter throughout the dough). Here was where you added your frozen fresh blueberries. Press down gently to get them embedded in the dough. Then starting at one end, you roll the dough into a log. Placing seam side down, shape into a 12″ x 4″ rectangle. Cut into fourths. Then each fourth cut diagonally to make triangles.

Here you can place each scone on a parchment lined baking sheet. I refrigerated mine for the next day since I was doing this the night before. I think you can even freeze them for later.

Brush melted butter on top and sprinkle with some sugar right before you put them in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

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They are delicious. A little sweet, full of blueberries, and fluffy. I had some with my coffee this morning. :-)

Do I have to do everything?

Do I have to do everything?  That phrase was uttered multiple times this week at the workplace. 

While I have been accepted at a new position at my work, I can’t completely transfer over until my current project is complete.  Something which my former boss seemed to smirk at when he found out that I had accepted the new position.  He arranged through my new manager to keep me on this project and on the support pager until September.  Oy! 

I thought, fine.  This will be ok.  I will transition everything over to my fellow teammate who has been assigned as my replacement for the project.  And I will be able to slowly step backward out the door to my new team. 

I have realized that this person (along with all others on the project) have no idea what we are doing.  I get questions all day about ‘how do we do this’ or ‘what is that for’.  My former manager has got on to me in the past for not delegating out work to other members on the project team.  However, when I do I’m reminded why I don’t like delegating.  Question after question on things they should already know.  And when they are finished with a task, it’s wrong and has to be started again.  When you are on a tight timeline, this can be extremely frustrating.  

This past week at work I stayed each night until at least 7pm.  And when I get home, I’m so exhausted that I don’t want to cook or do anything except drink wine.  This next week looks to be the same kind of thing.  Except this week, I’m carrying the pager.  Oh yeah.  Real nice.  

But on the bright side, this will be the last week I have to carry the pager.  Ever.  My new team doesn’t have a pager rotation.  Awesome.  For the past 15 years I have been on-call in some form or fashion.  It will be nice not to have to do that anymore.  

There is an end in sight! 

 

Well, I got it! But…

A couple of weeks ago, I made a post about interviewing for a different position within the company I work for.

Well, I got it! After a technical interview that I thought I completely blew, they offered me the position today. I am really excited about starting on this new team. The change will be welcomed and definitely needed.

Of course, there’s one bad thing about it. While I won’t be on my old team anymore, I have to complete this hellacious project that I’ve been working on for almost a year. Right now, it’s scheduled to be complete in September! Yikes. I certainly hope I can make it. While I really don’t want the stress of the project anymore I wouldn’t feel right about leaving the project team so close to implementation.
But at least it’s a start!

Beveraging Monday’s

It’s Monday. And a tradition that me and my buddy, Erik, get together and partake of many adult beverages. Namely beer. I can’t remember the exact date we started doing this. And even if it was a Monday. But every week (that we are available) we get together and drink and be merry.

It’s a great way to catch up on what’s going on and to relax and enjoy each other’s company. And get drunk. ;-)

Over the years we have had some really good times beveraging. And I really have enjoyed the friendship that started at a local bar called JJs. Erik is one of my best friends if not my only best friend. And I truly enjoy any time we can spend together.

Through Erik, I was able to meet MAG and Ms. Gray. Some of the greatest people you could ever meet. Ms. Gray and I share a love of food and cooking and quickly hit it off. They join us occasionally for Monday night libations. And it’s always a joy when they do.

But here’s to that one night we decided to have a few beers and ended up staying until closing. The start of a great tradition that hopefully never ends!

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