Friday, January 29, 2016

Foodie Friday: Cabbage Roll Soup

It's still on the chilly side, so soup is still on my menu. This one is pretty good, and a quick nod to my family's Stuffed Cabbage.

Cabbage Roll Soup
Yield: About 8 servings


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 large yellow onion, chopped (1 3/4 cups)
2 large carrots, chopped (1 1/4 cups)
5 cups packed chopped cabbage (16 - 19 oz)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium beef broth
3 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tsp dried paprika
1 tsp dried oregano or 1 Tbsp chopped fresh
3/4 tsp dried thyme or 2 1/2 tsp chopped fresh
2 bay leaves
3/4 cup dry long-grain white rice
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley


Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large cast iron pot over medium-high heat. Add beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring and breaking up beef occasionally, until browned. Transfer beef to a plate lined with paper towels while reserving 2 Tbsp of the rendered fat in pan (or drain off all fat and use 2 more tbsp olive oil), set beef aside. Add onion and carrots to pan and saute 1 minute, then add cabbage and saute 2 minutes, then add garlic and saute 1 minute longer. Pour in beef broth, tomato sauce, tomatoes, brown sugar, Worcestershire, paprika, oregano, thyme and bay leaves. Return beef to soup mixture. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste and bring to a light boil, then add rice, cover pot and reduce heat and simmer until rice is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Stir in up to 1 cup water or more beef broth to thin as desired (it will thicken as it rests and become almost like a stew), then stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve warm.

Recipe source: inspired by Spending with Pennies and Simply Stacie

Friday, January 22, 2016

Foodie Friday- Pioneer Woman's Red & Green Stuffed Shells

Ree Drummond strikesagain. I never thought about adding a bechamel-type sauce to my basic stuffed shells, so I'm glad she did!

Red and Green Stuffed Shells

Prep: 15 Minutes Level: Easy
Cook: 1 Hours Serves: 12

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 whole Onion, Diced
1 clove Garlic, Minced
10 ounces, weight Fresh Baby Spinach (or a pkg of frozen chopped spinach, thawed & squeezed dry)
4 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup All-purpose Flour
2-1/2 cups Whole Milk, More If Needed
2 Tablespoons Chopped Basil
2 Tablespoons Chopped Parsley
Salt And Pepper, to taste
30 ounces, weight Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, Plus More For Sprinkling
1 whole Large Egg
12 ounces, weight Jumbo Pasta Shells (25 To 30 Shells) Cooked Until Slightly Firmer Than Al Dente
jar of your favorite marinara sauce


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until the onion starts to soften, about 4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook, stirring continuously, until it's slightly wilted, about 2 minutes. Remove the spinach from the pan and let it cool slightly, then place it inside a few paper towels and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Give it a rough chop and set it aside.

Turn the heat to medium-low, then, in the same skillet, melt the butter and sprinkle the flour over the top. Whisk it together to make a roux, then cook it for a minute or two. Slowly add the milk, whisking out lumps as you go, and cook it until the white sauce is thickened, 4 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in half the basil, half the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Add another 1/4 cup milk if the white sauce is too thick. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, the rest of the basil, the rest of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste until combined. Stir in the chopped spinach mixture.

To assemble the shells, use a spoon to fill the pasta shells with the cheese mixture. Pour a thin layer of marinara in the bottom of your baking dish. Place the shells seam side down in a 9 x 13 casserole dish or disposable foil baking pan. Pour the marinara evenly over the shells, then ladle the white sauce over the marinara in a zig-zag/line design. Finally, sprinkle with more Parmesan.

Bake it in a preheated 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

***To freeze, cover the unbaked shells tightly with heavy foil and freeze for up to 6 months. To bake the frozen casserole, place it in a 375 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours, then uncover and continue baking for 10 to 30 minutes, depending on how frozen it was.
***Thaw the pan in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours, then bake as directed.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Chat Noir & other odds and ends

What a bummer 2016 has been already. We've lost David Bowie, Alan Rickman, the man who did the voice of Disney's Robin Hood,Lemmy from Motorhead, anbd now Glenn Frey of the Eagles. I'm sure I've missed someone else, but honestly that list is too long as it is!

Amazon finally managed to get the rest of my Christmas presents delivered! I'm listening to Paper Gods now & I like it much better than Duran Duran's last album. I was going to watch Luther 4, but I'm not sure I can stay awake.

Oh yeah, I'm sick again/still. The below freezing temperatures here haven't helped, & the double I foolishly worked Saturday made things worse. I'm voluntarily going to the doctor tomorrow.

Nightshade & Boo are taking turns being cuddly when I'm on the couch. Remy is still a bit reserved. Shady & the boys haven't quite figured each other out yet- lots of hissing going on, and Shady smacked one of them on the nose for getting too close. Not bad for only living together 3 weeks. It took that long just to get Shady out from under the couch when she came to live with me!

Signed up for the Goodreads challenge again this year. The last few years have been squeaked by at the end, so I lowered the bar a bit for this year. I'm making a concerted effort to get back to doing things I love despite the CFS, and reading is the biggie. I'm off to a good start so far!

I'm not letting myself start a new cross stitch project until I finish at least ONE of the ones I already have going. Since I really want to start the Beauty & the Beast project that I got for Christmas, I've been working on Chat Noir. Here's the latest view:

I've finished the cat's body & have started the base. Not much more to go. I'm dreading the back stitching, but I think it'll look good once I'm done.

Until the next time...

Friday, January 15, 2016

Foodie Friday- Oatmeal Ginger-cream Pies

These are delicious with a steaming mug of your favorite winter drink.


1½ c. Rolled Oats
1 c. all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. salt
1 stick butter
½ c. granulated sugar
½ c. packed light-brown sugar
1 large Egg
Ginger Cream (recipe follows)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, with racks set in the top and bottom positions. On a baking sheet, bake oats on the top rack, shaking the pan intermittently to prevent burning, until lightly browned, 10 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool, leaving oven on.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add the flour mixture, beating until just combined. Stir in the toasted oats.
Fit 2 baking sheets with parchment. Roll dough, 2 tablespoons at a time, into balls, or use a #30 (1-ounce) ice-cream scoop; for each sheet, drop 12 balls 2 inches apart. With dampened hands, flatten each ball to a 1/2-inch thickness. Using the bottom and top racks, bake until cookies are lightly browned around the edges and set, 12 minutes, switching the baking sheets from top to bottom and rotating them from front to back halfway through baking. Remove from oven and let cookies cool for 5 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Frost the bottoms of 12 cookies with Ginger Cream, then top with the remaining 12 cookies.

Ginger Cream


8 oz. cream cheese
⅓ c. confectioners' sugar
¼ c. finely chopped crystallized ginger


In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in the ginger.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ashes to Ashes

This is one of the handful of celebrity deaths that got to me. Rest In Peace, my Goblin King.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Foodie Friday- Chicken & Kale Casserole

Here is another quick & easy chicken casseorle. You can use spinach or swiss chard instead of the kale if you prefer.


Coarse salt
ground pepper
¾ lb. pasta shells
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion
3 clove garlic
2 bunch kale
2 c. shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1 container part-skim ricotta
3 tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
¾ c. grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain; return to pot. In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is beginning to soften, 4 minutes. Add kale, cover, and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Transfer to pot with pasta.
Stir in chicken, ricotta, lemon zest, and 1/2 cup Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 9- by 13-inch baking dish; top with 1/4 cup Parmesan. Bake until top is golden, 30 minutes.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Maybe It's Just Me

So, I've been checking out photography books from the library. The two I just finished flipping through were Modern Luxury Residences & Couture Wedding Gowns.

I don't get it. It's a good thing I'm not a rich celebrity who is supposed to care about this stuff. High fashion is wasted on me. I thought the wedding gown book would be fun, and it sort of was, but most of what I saw was hideous & the fun came from laughing at it. I look at Fashion Week photos online and wonder exactly who these designers think they're going to be dressing, because most of that "clothing" has no place in the real world.

Don't get me wrong- I like pretty clothes, but if it comes down to comfort & function or appearance & style, I'm going for comfort. You can't convince me that the girl with half a strip of fabric over her nipples, a skirt that restricts her ability to walk, and a headpiece that looks like a spittoon is comfortable.

And the Residence book...again, good thing I'm not rich. I don't want to live in an austere, sterile home. They're all beautifully designed, but they seem made to look at not live in. I like soft furnishings, pops of color, and spaces that make you want to stay in them. While I understand & appreciate a need for natural light, up to a point, I don't need massive windows in every flipping room. Especially when the window treatments (god forbid you call them curtains) are fussy and/or not designed to actually cover the damned things.

That said, I DO like quite a few of the designer bathrooms. I'd love to have some of the tubs I saw. Heated towel rails are lovely, and so are free standing showers. The toilets make me a little nervous- so many of them look like giant lidded cups. I'm used to traditional American loos with cisterns- you look at those and know what they're meant for.

Anyway, just felt like sharing those observations. The new cats are settling in, BTW. They're both venturing out of their hiding places and giving me drive by headbutts. Nightshade hasn't gone near them- they hiss and growl when they see her, poor girl- but I think they'll eventually warm up to each other.

Also, I dug out the Chat Noir cross stitch piece that I had started & abandoned in the fall. I'm almost done stitching the cat! Will try to post an updated picture of that next time.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Welcome To The New Year.

No, there won't be any of that "New Year, New Me" crap here. I'm not making resolutions, I'm not embarking on any drastic lifestyle changes. I'm just going to try to survive day by day and hope that this year is better than the last one.

So how did I ring in the new year? Not at work! Chuck got to take Christmas Eve off, so the bosses gave me NYE off instead. Not that it mattered- it's not like I was going to go out and whoop it up at a party or in a bar. I spent the night ensconced on the couch, watching the Inspector Cartoons from the Pink Panther series, and catching occasional cat sightings.

Oh yeah, I have two new cats. My friend Scott needed to rehome his 10 year old boys, Remy & Boo, as his girlfriend is highly allergic to them. Personally, I'd have gotten rid of her, but that may partly explain why I'm still single. Anyway, he delivered them to me at work as I was leaving that morning. They sang me the song of their people (Who The Hell Are You And Where The Hell Are We Going And Let Me Out Of This Damned Box!) on the 10 minute ride to my house, and were hesitant to come out of their travel crates once I got them inside. I took them out one at a time and showed them where the litter box was, and then they each took off for parts unknown. Since the house is still an audition tape for Hoarders, there's lots of place for them to hide. Anyway, both boys are still hiding, but have ventured out once or twice. Remy growled at me and went back behind the couch. Boo has been a bit more adventurous and even sat in my lap for a minute. So far, Nightshade is ignoring them. Good thing, too. Scott didn't tell me that they were such chunkbutts. I swear they weigh 30 lbs each, so they're easily 2-3 times Shady's size. They're declawed, but all they have to do is lie down on her and any fight that may start will be over.

First meal of the new year: Sausage & Kale stir fry w/peppers & onions over rice

First drink of the new year: Iced English Breakfast tea

First read: a chapter of Bill Bryson's The Road To Little Dribbling: More Notes From A Small Island before I dozed off on the couch.

I had bought a bottle of hard cider from Trader Joe's to toast the new year with, but forgot all about it. So I'm going to drink it tonight on my regular night off instead. At least I remembered to take the croissants I'd bought out of the freezer and put them out to rise. Breakfast was quite tasty.

While I was waiting for the croissants to bake, I stripped my bed and put on fresh flannel sheets. (oh yeah, we finally got winter temperature weather) And discovered that my bedroom walls seem to have developed rising damp. I had to go get the paper towels and bleach spray to clean up the mildew that's grown along the walls by my bed. Moving the bed out from the wall to get at it flushed out poor Boo, who had chosen that spot to hide for a while. The heating vent by the foot of the bed is quite alluring- Malkin used to like to lie there too.

Well, by the time I was done with all that, breakfast was done. I ate my croissants and watched At Last The 1948 Show for the umpteenth time. I couldn't crawl into my nice clean 2016 bed with my 2015 dirty body, so I took a long shower and scrubbed & shampooed myself silly. By the time I was done drying my hair and applying all of my lotions & potions, I was ready to call in a day/night. The cats had all disappeared again, so I closed me door and slept fairly soundly.

Last highlight of my day before I call it quits for this post. The one tradition I uphold is my Southern Good Luck dinner on New Years Day. Black eyed Peas (I prefer field peas), greens, and cornbread. I diced some country ham pieces and fried them a bit before dividing them to simmer into the peas & greens while the cornbread baked. It was quite tasty. Nightshade surprised me by going for the buttery cornbread instead of the bits of ham. She didn't get any of either, but she tried!

Anyway, I'm taking a couple of days off next week to recharge my brain and try to do something about the mess that is my house. Wish me luck!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Foodie Friday- New Year's edition- Chicken & Spinach Casserole

This is a good, quick, and easy dinner for anyone worn out from the holiday season festivities!


2 c. torn bread
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 c. packed flat-leaf spinach
¼ c. white wine
2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1½ c. half-and-half
½ tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 c. shredded rotisserie chicken
Coarse salt
ground pepper
1 medium yellow onion
1 clove garlic


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine bread with 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt. Set aside. In a medium pot, heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Add spinach; season with salt. Cook, stirring, until wilted, 2 minutes. Transfer to a colander, let cool, then squeeze out water. Coarsely chop.
Wipe pot clean and heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil over medium. Add onion, garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes.
Add wine to pot and cook until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Gradually whisk in half-and-half. Add lemon juice and bring mixture to a boil over high.
Remove from heat and stir in chopped spinach and chicken; season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish and top with bread pieces. Bake until bread is golden brown and mixture is bubbling, 8 to 10 minutes.