Black Kale

Definitely will be seeking out Black Kale in the future!  This stuff is wonderful!  We love steamed kale to begin with, but this variation is tender and almost sweet.

Other items on the plate are mushrooms, miniature sweet peppers, a portion of New York Strip Steak, and some specialty rice (see next paragraphs).

Yes, the rice looks pretty ordinary, but it was an astonishingly successful chapter in my never-ending quest for a variety of nutritious and fun things to eat.

This particular day, I was cooking up 2# of Italian sausage to have as “stock” in my freezer.  NOLA Boy loves him his sausage – no matter what kind – so I keep a supply of Italian and breakfast sausage already cooked and at the ready to add as seems appropriate to enhance his portion of a dish.

So, when the sausages were all cooked, I poured out most of the accumulated grease, and added about an additional half a cup of hot water into the pan, and let it do its own thing (with the fire off!) for about ten or so minutes.

This boiled away most of the fluid while loosening all of the good parts of the sausage that had held tenaciously to the bottom of the pan.  These bits were now adrift and ready to incorporate themselves into my fantasy rice experiment.

At this point, I added a bit of avocado oil so there would definitely be no burning, and sprinkled in a cup and a half of dry long-grained rice, and stirred the grains around quite a bit to encourage them to make friends with the sausage bits.

Meanwhile I was bringing to a boil a quart or so of water in an electric kettle.  I find it less damaging to my carefully selected Calphalon pans if I do not pour cold water in on top of hot ingredients.

I added another half a cup of water to the pan and stirred everything together for a minute or so – until all the bits definitely were up off the bottom of the pan and making friends with the rice.  At that point, I added the rest of the water (about 2.5+ additional cups, depending on how much has disappeared in the deglazing processes), and stirred it around a bit.

After I was sure the bottom of the pan had yielded all of its goodies, and that the pan was hot enough for the rice to luxuriate for a while without burning or sticking, I turned off the fire completely.  The Calphalon pans are very heavy – like cast iron, only with a bit more modernization with the non-stick coating.

I have had these pans for three years, and that coating has not budged.  These are my every day pans, and I cook every day, so they get a good amount of use.  The handles are all metal, so can go in the oven, but I have not had the occasion to do that.  The handles do not become overly hot in the usual shorter-term use on the stove top.

Clearly, I love these pans!

But back to the rice . . . if you are satisfied that the rice has begun to absorb the water and cook with the amount of heat it has had so far, turn down the burner to either very, very low, or simply turn it off and check later to see how it is going.

If there is one thing I have learned the hard way about cooking is that it is probably never a bad idea to turn OFF a burner when in doubt.  Almost any pan will hold heat for quite a while, and you can always turn it back ON in a flash to produce heat once again.

The opposite effect – leaving the burner turned on, even if on LOW – can produce a sticky mass on the bottom of the pan when you are least expecting it.  Housewifery and motherhood being what it is, the propensity to become distracted at times can spell doom on one’s kitchen output on occasion.

My saucepans are non-coated stainless steel, and I have yet to burn anything in them in over a decade of use by using the above heat control method.  If the burner is OFF, the food tends to remove itself from the bottom of the pan as it cools, even if it has made every effort to thwart your best intentions.

The food and the pan will stay hot for longer than you think, so even if the food becomes less hot than you prefer, you can always turn the burner back on for a bit, and keep a watch on it until it is at serving temperature again.

Under temperature is more easily remedied than over temperature !!!

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Raspberry YUM

In my continuing quest for more ways to use the tapioca pudding, this delicious dessert appeared.  A thin layer of the unsweetened tapioca holds the raspberries in place.  The cake is a thin slice of gingerbread, and the ice cream is coffee chocolate chip.

The combination of creamy, sweet, spicy and fruity just all seemed to flow together.  We have enough gingerbread for one more round of this tonight, and then I’ll need to think up something new to do with the tapioca.

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Healthy Mac ‘n’ Cheese

The perennial favorite comfort food . . .

Between the rainy and chilly weather (yes, I am a weather wuss!) and my continued inability to walk very far, I haven’t been to the grocery store for nearly three weeks, so meals are becoming less unique.

So the old favorite, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, got a whirl the other night, with a couple of changes to the traditional high-calorie version.  I cut up some of the small multi-colored baby peppers into a fresh cheese sauce made with broth, flour, and whole milk powder, going easy on the cheese, and used the larger rotini pasta shape.

I’ve been experimenting with the different Penzey’s herbs and spices and find that a good mixture of flavors can enhance a dish while holding down on the need for the heavier-caloried ingredients.

I’ve been enamored of a mixture called Ozark that seems to combine just the right herbs and spices to complement a great variety of dishes.  There is no one outstanding flavor, just a nice mixture that is pleasing in the aggregate.

A good sprinkle of smoked paprika on the cheese sauce, and a generous portion of spinach in the center, made for an attractive and delicious repast.

Still a month to go until the surgery – can’t come too soon!  ;->

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Soap Opera

NOLA Boy just loves this foam dispenser.  It has a bit of a fragrance – not much – but enough to be quite pleasant.

We were having a problem with the regular pump dispensers disgorging bits of their contents all over the sinks, so this seemed like a possible solution.  Also hoping that it would solve the problem of incessant dribbling in the motorhome when changing elevations.

As a bonus, enough product for nearly three refills come in a plastic bag, so no need to purchase an additional dispenser apparatus, and dispose of the first one.  Not clear how long the spring will last, but hopefully through several refill bags.

But ever since my trial romance with the Yardley bar soap, I have been using that quite happily.  No dripping at all!  It seems to use less water, too, in the process.

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Hip Replacement

I am scheduled for a hip replacement next month, and would love to hear from anyone with any experience with this operation as to what to expect pre- and post-op – i.e. how it affected your life, pain levels and resolutions of same, etc. – any information at all would be most welcomed.

Most specifically I would like to hear how those who RV have managed within the confines of a motorhome, as well as ingress and egress from the vehicle.

Right now, and for the last seven years, I have been in constant pain, and am totally looking forward to some resolution to this.  I can’t believe that the operation, pre-hab and re-hab can be any more painful that what I have been enduring for so long, but maybe I am in for a nasty surprise.

Any and all stories are gratefully read, so please share what is comfortable for you as far as how this happens in the real world, and not just in the booklets that they give you at the time of scheduling!  ;->

Private correspondence may be sent to my email address:

judieashford@earthlink.net

Thanks to one and all who share their stories with me.  As a person blessed with good health for almost my entire life, this is very frightening for me, so anything you can share will be eagerly read and digested.

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Thanksgiving Light

Thanksgiving Day was beastly here – rain, sleet, high winds . . . and that was just the warm up for Friday !

We were scheduled to have Thanksgiving dinner with brother and sister-in-law, but we postponed the gathering until Sunday.  This was a wise decision.

So the above was our dinner on Thanksgiving Day.  The Sunday Thanksgiving dinner was a bit more elaborate.

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Bowl o’ Rolls

Monday night I made some calzone using a new-to-me bread recipe.  The bread was great, but I made a rookie’s mistake and forgot to grease the pan.  I just put down some cornmeal on the insulated air bake pan.  They stuck down – not so badly that they tore on the way to our plates, but they weren’t bee-yoo-tiful, either, hence no photo.

I liked the crust and the firmness of the dough, and thought that it would be perfect for rolls for carting our sandwiches around when we are going to be out “on the town”, so to speak, during the day.  The recipe that I had been using makes a softer dinner-type roll, so these should hold up better to the task of keeping our sandwiches at the ready for gobbling.

I wanted to see how they could work out as dinner rolls, so I put a heavy helping of Italian herbs, and specifically Tuscan Sunset herbs, into the dough.  This brought out a bit of an “infusion” of herbiness; so much so that I didn’t even put additional butter and herbs on them when I reheated them to have with a bowl of a most delicious potato/broccoli chowder today for lunch.  And I could easily see them with a nice green salad at dinner.

In short, this turned out to be a quite nice, all-purpose roll recipe.  They look quite plain in their portrait, but I’m thinking of many ways to jazz them up, which is pretty much the fun of finding a new recipe!

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