Creative Use of Leftovers

Cooking with fresh ingredients is one thing, and I was lucky this week that A. I had the time to cook, B. had good ingredients from my veggie basket to work with and C. came up with something good for dinner two nights in a row. But the trick is the leftovers. Just eat them as is for a repeat of a pretty darn good dinner, or come up with something else. Yesterday and today I went with the something else option.

I’m still in the midst of painting (eight days down, about two more to go) so the leftover route was a good option. That and I’m a little sore in multiple areas of my body from said eight days of painting. So leftover dinner one – short rib rolls. I took some onion

20130628-174426.jpg caramelized them down, chopped up the leftover short ribs

20130628-174503.jpg and added some of the plum sauce. I let that simmer for a bit then rolled the mixture, a little at a time, in rice paper – easier than anticipated actually – and came up with dinner. I added a little heated sauce for Bob and short rib rolls it was. Somehow the addition of the onion gave this a great new dimension.

Tonight’s adventure was the pork. I thought about pork tacos, BBQ pork sliders, and a pork salad but none of that sounded appealing. So after seeing what my veggie basket had today I decided on a pork pie.

The savory pie idea came for, the awesome Chicken, Ham and Leek pie Emmie’s friend in England sent over one night the last time we were there. I had never really considered savory pies before, but now I’m slightly obsessed with them. BTW Brad – any chance of getting another pie when we come over next time? Just asking. I still have fond memories of that pie. … Back to the pork pie. I found a recipe for a Quebec pork pie. It had a fancy name and great reviews so I started there. But … never one to follow a recipe, I used the basic cooking technique and not much else.

I chopped two ribs of celery, one carrot, one half of a large onion, two cloves of garlic and the leftover pork from Monday. I tossed all of that into a large skillet (coated with a little butter) one cup of veggie broth, Italian seasoning, pepper and a dash of cinnamon. Stir all together, cover and simmer for about a half hour. In the mean time I made a crust. It’s not pretty, but it worked. I poured the filling into the pie plate, covered with what might pass as a top and popped it in the oven at 400 for about 30 more minutes. Uncovered. It came out looking like this.

By the time we finished our first and second helpings, it looked like this.

Needless to say, we both really, really liked it.

The front room (now to be referred to as the library) is looking really, really good. Love the dark brown walls and the new placement of the desk. My huge 302 pound desk. But it works. Still need to paint the bookshelf and get it all back together, but it is looking really, really good. Just our bedroom left and I should be able to do that next week.

20130628-175837.jpg If the cats decide they can supervise that is – such hard work being that cute.

Cooking with fruit

I’m not big on cooked fruit. It’s a failing, I know, but apple pie, crumbles of any kind, baked apples just have a really weird texture to me and I’ve never exactly found a way around it. Here in lies my conundrum; my veggie basket each week contains fruit – fruit that I generally intend to eat raw but then forget about. So … How to use the fruit but get around my texture issue.

20130625-214800.jpg My first idea this week was a chutney. Well, that was the idea before I decided I wanted a sauce, but I started with a fruit chutney recipe and just didn’t reduce it so much that it became an actual chutney. So … pears were the base of this and I added sherry vinegar, spices, chili peppers and … Hmmm … I can’t actually remember. But the sauce looked like is as it was cooking.

The end result was pretty good. Bob really liked it over the pork, and I have to say, I didn’t cook the pears so much that the texture was a huge issue for me. It was a little but of an issue, but not a total “I can’t eat this” issue. The pork itself was really good. Pork loin roast that I coated in ground mustard and brown sugar before grilling. It was almost as good as the bacon bread – almost.

20130625-215206.jpg After eating out (or take out) most of last week because of the painting project, a nice, light meal was a welcome and tasty change.

Also sitting in the ice box this week were some really cute plums. Now I like plums, but they have to be really ripe and I generally forget about them as I wait for them to ripen enough to eat. After the chutney sauce success, I decided to try a plum sauce to go with some short ribs I picked up the other day. Not wanting the heavy red wine version, I modified a yellow plum sauce recipe and came up with today’s experiment.

Plums, white balsamic vinegar, onion, a little water, brown sugar, ginger, chili pepper, and salt. Bring to a boil them let simmer until the plums break down. This did take a little longer than I expected, and then I was impatient and didn’t want to wait for it to reduce and thicken. But the result was still really good.

20130625-215815.jpg I added the sauce to the short ribs that I had I’m the slow cooker all day

20130625-215847.jpg and then made a side dish of glazed turnips and carrots. Note – the only other time I have ever eaten (knowingly) turnips was a timbal I made last fall that was not nearly as successful as the squash one. This is the long way of saying I had no idea if I would like them at all, but they were in the basket and my goal this week was to use everything from the basket. So … baby carrots and two turnips (cut into chunks) a little veggie broth and a bit of brown sugar and pinch of salt. Cook covered over high heat for ten minute, then uncover and stir until most of the liquid evaporates. I didn’t get a sticky glaze, but I did achieve a nice flavor and coating to them.

The overall dish was really, really good. The carrots and turnips went well with the short ribs and the sauce and nothing overpowered anything else. The sauce was the star of the show, but it was a very nice little meal.

And, of course, my quest for excellent brownies continues. I tried another Alton Brown recipe and added some caramel sauce I had left over from a cake.

The results were pretty darn tasty and if Bob isn’t careful I may hide this batch. I did give him a piece … But it may be the only piece he gets.


New House?

I get the urge to move every few years. I’ve lived in several states since graduating from college more years ago than I want to admit, but after the Florida move, I seemed settled. Happy where I am (although if a perfect opportunity came up across the pond, I can’t guarantee I wouldn’t look at it) and not really anxious to leave. That doesn’t mean I don’t want change. But this year, instead of moving, I’m painting and redoing the house a little.

The color in the main part of the house has always been very neutral. Bland, but fine. I was hoping to go a medium brown – pecan colored – but Bob was concerned with that color making the house dark and closed in. (Did I mention this whole compromise thing is not what I’m used to with decorating or renovating? Really. It’s a new concept for me.) OK, so pecan is out. We looked at paint chips and he really liked the Swiss Coffee. I like it for a trim color (it’s white … cream technically, but white) but for the walls? Well … if we do the trim dark that might work. From last week’s post you saw the test area – the kitchen island.

We both liked how this came out, so I spent my week doing the main part of the house in this scheme. White walls were not my friend as I started this and by mid Tuesday I was seriously reconsidering.



20130622-204443.jpg That is A LOT of white. But I kept going and Thursday I started on the trim (yes, it took me three days to paint the walls – there are a lot of little spaces between doors and the living room wall is huge!) and I really liked it.

Even with the tape, and with only one coat of paint, I loved it. I even told Bob when he came home for lunch that I didn’t care if he hated it – I really loved it. (Happy to report he is very pleased with the results also.) The final product, however is amazing.



So I’m totally happy with the main part of the house. Bob had picked out colors for his office, so today we worked on that.



Bob called it ‘shades of Orc green’ a la his minor obsession with World of Warcraft. The window area is a dark, almost forest green and the walls are a lighter version. I have to admit – it looks good. Really good.


I am instructed to include that he isn’t done with the room yet. I know that, but really, it looks so good I had to include it.

The pets were mixed on the process. Gracie was not letting this disrupt her regular outings or naps. Tigger and Leia didn’t seem to mind so much, and actually liked the drop cloth.


20130622-210116.jpg Jessie, on the other hand, spent the week under the ottoman and as far away from the ladder as she could.

Up next is the front room (aka the cat room) and our bedroom. We are also rearranging some furniture in a few rooms and I think it’s going to come out really well. If I can ever pick a color for our bedroom that is. Sorry about no new food experiments this week, but I got a new house – without the hassle of moving – instead!

Coconut Cashew Chicken and new paint

The school year has finally ended for me and I could not be happier. I feel like my blood pressure dropped back into the normal zone. Fifteen years (give or take) I’ve worked in public schools and none has even come close to this one. So it is not with any sadness that I see it go, and hope that next school year is far, far better.

But, as I was getting those last things done – ten months of filing, preparing files for next year, getting yet more paperwork done – I came decided to try something totally different, inspired by all the Indian food Bob and I have been consuming in recent weeks.

My veggie basket had some really pretty red kale in it, and I decided to go with a cashew coconut sauce for it and the chicken. I started with roasting some cashews, the combined those in a food processor with honey, sesame oil and a little red pepper. Once that was ground to a nice paste, I took some and added it to coconut milk. It was really, really thick so I added veggie broth to thin it a little. The red kale I kept simple – braised in veggie broth.

20130617-152547.jpg The results were pretty good. I have another sauce that I think will go with a lot of things, and we had a meal worth taking a picture of for a change.

This week my project is painting. We started with the island last week and decided we liked it enough to do the rest of the main portion of the house. For reference, this is the island now:

20130617-152806.jpg Today I started with the front door area. It is a pain because there are lots of little areas and I, of course, forgot to get the small rollers at Home Depot this weekend. You always forget something. So I started this morning

20130617-153028.jpg with taping the ceiling off and painting the boring sand a kind of boring white.

After the first coat was on, I went out to Home Depot, got the rollers I needed, came back and got the second coat on in much better time – and with cleaner results.

Bob is really happy with the results and is working on patching the walls near the sliders for me so I can paint more tomorrow. Right now it looks like the most boring wall around – white walls, white trim is very bland. But I know by the end of next week, I will have a fabulous brown trim and it will look a ton better. And really, If we decide I completely hate it, I can always paint it again in a few years. Paint is cheap. Way cheaper than other renovations I can envision, so we will stick with paint.

Week’s End

Normally I remember to take pictures of food when I cook. Normally this usually involves Bob chuckling at me and at least one cat running in the opposite direction. This time, however, I was so hungry by the time I got dinner done on Friday, I just sat down and ate. And if you can’t tell from the picture above,

20130608-193424.jpg It was very, very good.

I did a version of a Greek chicken salad. Barley cooked in veggie broth (about 1/2 cup uncooked), cucumber (3 very small pickling ones, chopped), one beefsteak tomato, a bit of red onion, feta cheese and shredded chicken that I cooked in veggie broth and covered. To that I added a dressing of white balsamic vinegar, juice and zest of a half a lemon, three cloves of garlic, thyme, basil and pepper with olive oil. Needless to say, neither Bob nor I were willing to leave leftovers.

I also had a project this weekend. I’ve been wanting to paint the inside of the house for a while. We thought we had a color, but Bob was concerned with how dark it might make the house, so we went back to the drawing board. We settled on Swiss Coffee for the wall and Chocolate Coco for the trim. We think. So I decided to do a test.

The kitchen island is a great test space. Large enough to see, but not next to anything incase it turns out horribly. So we picked up some paint and I taped everything off and started painting.

Right next to the old color you can tell the difference. Once the whole wall was done, it is a litte harder to see.

After the first coat of the trim, I was nervous

The brown was not as dark as I thought it would be and I just wasn’t sure. After a second coat of paint and removing the tape …

I really like it. There is something about the chocolate that reminds me of grandmom’s house in Philly. Specifically the stairs in that house. I think the light wall and dark trim has an old fashioned feel to it, which I really like. So the plan is to live with it for a week and if we still love it next weekend we get the rest of the paint and I go to town painting the house.

It would also be helpful if I could get Leia to stop sniffing the paint. I almost got a picture but that cat is a true member of the family and HATES having her picture taken.

On a more serious note, we came through the tropical storm just fine. There was lots of rain, wind and a few tornadoes near work, but overall nothing to worry about. It is summer in south Florida so we kind of expect this stuff.

Brief Update

I realized that I had not updated since the big cook out. Bob and I happily ate leftovers for a week as I try to get everything together for the last few weeks of work. You would think it would be relatively calm this time of year, but it is busy and hectic making sure everything is in order before files get transferred to new schools, students know where they stand with credits, classes are picked and then changed for next year etc. And since every other school is doing the exact same thing, the program that I would use to do most of this is slower than beating the eggs to 160 degrees over a double boiler. Seriously – seven minutes today to get to the page I needed for one kid.

I found a surprisingly good wine. I think these are from the same winery – Lady in White and Lady in Red. Not expensive in the least, and good with dinner wine. I liked both very much, but I have to say, there is something about the bottles that I just love.

Tigger has been a fussy baby again. He goes through these phases where he throws up his food, so I search for a new food. We are on bag five (or six, I lost count) of new food. I’m trying to find stuff that is good for them – limit the by-product and gluten meal – but the majority of those foods he won’t eat. Most of these, none of them would eat. Gracie was getting skinnier and Tigger was just down right cranky. So I went with a more middle of the road choice:

20130604-212830.jpg Good old Purina. They all swooped in and ate this morning. Maybe Tigger will let me sleep now. Probably not, but at least Gracie won’t loose any more weight. Poor thing is already really, really skinny.

No picture, but I did find an awesome yoga place near me. They changed the schedule for summer, so I can actually make class Monday and Thursday. They also started a Saturday am class so I’m super excited. Two classes in and I think I can already feel my blood pressure drop. Super relaxed atmosphere and the class is a lot like the one I use to take in Jersey. Now if I can just get my balance back.

Gratuitous dog picture. But Jessie is so cute and still I have to get a pet picture in.

Happy almost summer!