Little things make a difference. We hear it all the time and generally think, “mmhmm. Right.” We don’t believe it in general until something little does make a difference.
The last few weeks at work have been hard. Nerve shredding hard. I don’t think I cooked most of April and I actually started not having a drink, or only having one, at night just to make sure I still could. Could not have one, and could stop at one. I went to bed tired, I woke up tired, I felt like any little thing would make me snap and I constantly wanted to cry. I kept thinking the gods had more faith in my ability to handle stuff than I actually could. And Wednesday of last week almost broke me. But, as I FINALLY got back into my office about 4pm (I left it before 9) there was a beautiful bunch of Lilies on my desk. I was terribly confused until I read the card -Bob sent me flowers just to make my day better. For those of you who don’t know Bob well, this is unusual. As in he told me on one of our first dates that he doesn’t do cards or flowers. In the six years we have been together this is the only time he as ever given me flowers. I sat on the floor in my office and cried. But somehow the day, the week and the month just got a little easier to deal with. It didn’t make anything go away. I still had to deal with everything, but my nerves didn’t feel frayed for the first time in three weeks. The woman who has the office next to mine came in and asked what was wrong (She has never seen me cry). I just showed her the card and pointed to the flowers. She told me to, “Damn it, now I love your husband too and I don’t like anyone right now.” A little thing made a huge difference.
The cats have been having a fantastic time in the tree lately. The tree is their little thing to brighten their day. The poor birds are a not finding it as amusing as the cats, but they did build a nest in a tree with three cats in the yard.
Tigger and Gracie haven’t let Leia in the tree very much, but she still finds ways to enjoy it. Tigger has gotten out further on the branch than I expected for a cat his size, but so far the nest is fine.
On Saturday I introduced Bob to the Toasted Mango. This is a breakfast/brunch place near Mom and Dad. The food it fantastic …. and it looks pretty too!
Apricot stuffed French Toast and Berry Topped Waffle. Yum.
I’m hoping to cook a little more in the coming weeks. I started today with BBQ beef sandwich and Asian Slaw.
Not bad, but not as creative as I would like. Look for zucchini and tomato fritters and honey ginger chicken this week.
Somehow, whenever state testing season rolls around, I think ever test publisher and legislator who thinks these things are a good idea and actually measure what students know and teachers have taught should be forced to spend a year in a middle school. Or a high school but middle schoolers aren’t as good at hiding their anxiety and talk to you about how worried they are. So I have spent the last two weeks gathering materials, easing anxieties, reading scripts and watching students take tests for multiple hours a day. Two weeks in and we are not even close to the end. And my regular job still has to get done, so by the time I get home, I’m exhausted (try watching someone do something for a few hours and do nothing else but watch them, no email, no phone, no Internet, no book, nothing …. See how totally brain dead and exhausted you are) and my nerves are frayed almost to breaking. So there hasn’t been a whole lot of cooking recently, and Bob has been totally wonderful about ordering in or going out. I feel guilty but when you can’t think straight and can’t stand much more, cooking just isn’t realistic. This weekend I did manage to make omelettes with the eggs from the veggie patch.
But even that is closing for the summer so now I have to find a new source of cage free eggs.
With all of this going on, the animals are still a source of joy for me. They have been spending a lot of time in the tree lately, something I was thrilled with, but a little confused by. All three of the babies have been going up there or circling the base of the tree for a few weeks now.
I didn’t get a good picture of Leia there – she jumps down and runs over as soon as she sees me every Ike I try to catch her. But what has gotten the kittens so interested in the tree all of the sudden? Surely the birds can’t be dumb enough to build a nest there … or can they?
Yep, they did. One nest on a branch that the cats can get to. They were smart enough to build it out, but Gracie might be able to get to it given the right motivation. At least I will be entertained as I drink my coffee or wine on the back patio for a while.
One more full week of testing then we start the End of Course Exams so only two to three days a week until Memorial Day weekend. So no food posts for another week or so, but I hope to come up with some really creative things once this is all over.
When we were in England, one of Emmie’s friends dropped off the most amazing dinner. The star of the meal was a chicken, ham and leek pie that was amazing. It looked like this …
I spent most of the meal trying to figure out what was in it and how I could make it. Once we got back to the States, I poured over recipes trying to find combinations that might work and would recreate the flavors.
So I took the last of the leftover ham from Thanksgiving (freezers are a wonderful invention) and the chicken breasts from the roasted chicken from the weekend and started to think. I took one leek (minus the greens), a quarter onion, one clove garlic and one shallot and sautéed them in a little butter until they were soft. To that I added the chopped chicken and ham, then 1.5 cups cream, about 1/4 cup white wine (a California blend), salt and pepper. I stirred in one tablespoon flour.
To make the pie part of this and still keep it light, I decided to use phyllo dough instead of puffed pastry. I just used a few layers but it turned out perfect. I do admit there was one small problem with this creation …
the pie bubbled over and hit the 400 degree floor of the oven. It was all I could do to get the back doors open and fans on before the smoke alarms went nuts. Thankfully I managed it or I would have one very unhappy puppy.
The pie came out really well. It was not the exact same as the British version, but it was darn good. Bob and I both went back for seconds.
Thankfully there were no students at school today. I don’t say that because I don’t love my kids, but April 1st, and Halloween, are horrible days to work in a school. But even without students all around, it was one of those days and I felt the need for comfort food. Or alcohol, but I went with comfort food.
Originally I wanted Mac & Cheese. I wanted the gooy, creamy mouthfeel of the pasta and melted cheese, but realized rather quickly that there is no pasta at home thanks to Bob’s no grain thing. Ok, low grain, but if I think that way we would be eating A LOT more grains. Also the nutritional value of Mac & Cheese is pretty low and if I’m going to break Bob’s diet I want to do it for something more than Mac & Cheese. So I compromised and went with risotto.
I have made this before, but today’s version came out super well. I started with one cup of hard cider. Rather than wine (only have red on hand) I went with the deep draft cider.
I actually think this made a huge difference. The heavier quality of the liquid, and the really deep flavor was wonderful. So one cup of this with a few bay leaves (thank you Val) over medium high heat to reduce. While that is reducing, I took a pat of butter and sautéed a half an onion and a half a shallot until they were soft. Add one cup arborio rice and cook until each kernel is coated and translucent. Add the hot cider to the pan and stir until most of the liquid is absorbed. Transfer to a baking dish – little 8×11 is what I used – and add three cups veggie stock. Stir then cover with foil and pop into a 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes. Stir once part way through, but otherwise leave it alone. It comes out like this:
Add some grated Parmesan, about a third of a cup and you have dinner. I usually add butternut squash to this but didn’t have any today. Bob said this was my best version yet. And I actually agree so I had to write down what I did before I forgot!
Oh, and we had a nice little dessert:
The stupidly simple panna cotta with blueberries, peaches and kiwi. Oh so good. Not bad for a Monday night.