Sunday, September 25, 2011

Retirement Rocks!

It sure does.  While I officially retired on June 3, it didn't really seem to be retirement until school started in mid-August.  I've always had a summer vacation, so our trip to Alaska was just another summer vacation (as far as feeling retirement goes).  Once my friends and colleagues returned to work, and I started seeing Facebook posts about it, I started feeling retired. 

I've settled into a little bit of a routine now.  My friend Betty, who also retired in June, invited me to join the Drayson Center at Loma Linda University and take some classes.  (The Drayson Center is a state-of-the art recreation complex, complete with gymnasium, weight rooms, handball/racquetball courts, studios for classes such as yoga and aerobics, and two - TWO - swimming pools). Since I'm officially a senior at the ripe old age of 55, it only costs $18 a month, and I can come as often as I like and take any classes I want.  Betty takes aerobics, water aerobics, and sometimes yoga.  I'm just taking the water aerobics, and I go on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Class is an hour, and we get worked.  It is strenuous but feels so good, especially since we're in the water.  After class I can run errands - groceries, Costco, JoAnns, library, post office, etc.  If I don't have errands I'm home by 12:30, leaving me the rest of the afternoon to sew. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays I rarely go down the mountain, and again can spend all day sewing and cooking.

Now that I have more time for cooking, we're eating a little better, and I even can take time to try new things.  I joined the Secret Recipe Club, where once a month I'm assigned someone elses's blog, try a recipe from her blog, and blog about it.  That'll be happening for the first time in October.

Right now I've got two new recipes.  Last night I made soup - Don likes soup, and we both like the Pasta E Fagioli that you get at Olive Garden.  I found a few copycat recipes for it on the net, and adapted them for myself. This one was easy and tasted really good.

Pasta E Fagioli

(sorry for the blurry photo!)
3/4 lb. ground beef
1 med. onion, chopped
3 med. carrots, diced
4-5 celery stalks, sliced thinly
2 14-15-oz. cans diced tomatoes
1 14.5-oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1 14.5-oz. can white kidney beans (cannelini) or Northern white beans, drained
6 cups water
2 teaspoons beef bouillon granules or 2 cubes
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 26-28-oz. can or jar spaghetti sauce (I used Hunts from a can, but you can use Prego, Ragu, Newman's Own, etc.)
1 1/2 cups macaroni (or any other small pasta)

Sauté the beef with the onion in a heavy stock pot until beef is browned. Add carrots, celery, and tomatoes, and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until celery and carrots are tender, about 45 minutes. (Note: watch the bottom of the pan so it doesn't stick and burn.)

This morning we got up and went down the mountain to the Applebee's in Redlands.  One of my former colleagues, Lisa, has a son who is playing Junior All-American football. Their team was having a "Dining to Donate" fundraiser - all you can eat pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee, and orange juice for only $10.  We like things like that!  I then spent the rest of the day sewing, and decided on something quick for dinner.  I always like this meal - it takes only 15 minutes to make.  Seriously! 

Quick and Easy Fish Tacos

10 fish sticks
5 small corn tortillas (4 1/2" - 5")
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon chipotle chile powder (I use Penzey's)
1/2 - 3/4 cup grated cheddar
salsa or pico de gallo
shredded cabbage - about 1 1/2 cups

Cook the fish sticks in the over per package directions. While they are cooking, make the sauce: stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, and chipotle chile powder.  Grate the cheese, if necessary, and shred the cabbage.

To assemble:  Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium-high heat.  Place corn tortilla on the griddle, and top with a little grated cheese. Next, add about a teaspoon (I use three little dollops, pushed off the spoon with my finger) of the sauce.  When cheese is melted and tortillas are soft, remove them to a plate. Add two fish sticks to each one, and top with salsa and cabbage.  Enjoy!  Makes 5. [Don eats 3 and I eat 2].  We serve these with pinto beans.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cocoa Krispies Treats

I've been making these for years, and have no idea where I got the recipe. It may have come off the back of a Cocoa Krispies box.  But we like these better than regular Rice Krispies Treats. The addition of peanut butter makes them a little better, in my opinion.

Cocoa Krispies Treats

1 small box Cocoa Krispies (store brands work fine, too)
1 small bag miniature marshmallows
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/3 cup peanut butter

Pour the Cocoa Krispies into a large bowl. Lightly butter a 13" x 9" pan. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt together the marshmallows, butter, and peanut butter.  When all the marshmallows have melted, pour the mixture over the Cocoa Krispies. Stir quickly to combine; pour out into buttered pan. Get your hands damp with water, and press the mixture down into the pan to even it all out.  Let cool and then cut into bars.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Apple Turnovers

I guess you could call these semi-homemade. I had a package of puff pastry in my freezer, and needed to do something with it.  I have a great application on my ipad called "How to Cook Everything" by Mark Bitman.  It is probably the best cooking application I have, and I have 9 of them. I searched for any recipe with "puff pastry," and one of the ones that came up was apple turnovers.

Bitman's recipe uses homemade puff pastry - "1/2 recipe" of it - and would make twelve 6" squares once it was rolled out.  I used one half of the box - one piece - and it made six 6" squares after I rolled it out.  Therefore I used half of the apples and other ingredients.

Once the pastry was rolled out on the counter, I cut six 6" squares that fit nicely on the lightly greased cookie sheet.
I used two Granny Smith apples, and added some raisins since I like raisins in my apple turnovers.

The recipe said to bake these for 40 minutes, but they were well-done at 35. If I'd waited until 40 they would have been burned. What DID happen, which isn't mentioned in the original recipe, is that a lot of juice came out of the turnovers and burned on the bottom of the cookie sheet. Luckily it didn't cause the turnovers to burn.

Apple Turnovers
adapted from Mark Bitman's How to Cook Everything

2 tart apples, peeled and cored
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon minced or grated lemon zest, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
1/4 cup sugar, or more to taste, plus more for the work surface and for sprinkling
1/2 of a package of puff pastry (1 sheet), thawed

Grate the apples in a food processor or on the coarse side of a box grater. Immediately toss them with the lemon juice. Add the cornstarch, lemon zest, cinnamon, and sugar. Taste and add more lemon zest or cinnamon if you like.

Use sugar to coat a work surface. Roll out the pastry sheet, sprinkling with sugar as you work, until the dough is less than 1/4" thick and measures approximately 15" x 10". Cut 5" squares of pastry. Sprinkle lightly with sugar. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Divide the filling evenly among the six squares; fold over the edges to form a triangle.  Juices will be escaping - use them to help seal the edges. I had to even blot up a lot of juice with paper towels. Slash the top of the turnover with a sharp knife once or twice so steam can escape.  Chill while you heat the oven or for up to several hours

Heat the oven to 350˚. Brush the tops of the turnovers with a little water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake until the turnovers are golden brown, about 33 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 6.