Musing with Max

Musing with Max

January 27, 2011

The Winter of our Discontent

...and the snow just kept falling
and falling

and falling

and falling

....aaaand falling

but some of us have no choice but to go out in it anyway

January 23, 2011

Work in Progress

So my second day of my new job, the day we have a meeting with the CEO, we have a snowstorm. Oy! Another one, 6 -8 inches, on top of the diminished 30 inches we had from two weeks ago and the three somewhere in between...and the frigid temperatures turning everything into ice
so Frank gets up, showers and shovels since we know we're coming home late and won't be able to shovel then. We take Max out for a quickie in the frozen tundra of Manso field

get our winter gear on and trudge over to the train station. Miraculously, NJ Transit is right on time and I am sitting at my desk by 8:15 AM wearing my Santa Claus boots leggings and a huge sweater; maybe not the best outfit for a meeting with the CEO but I'm here which is more than I can say for most of the people that work here. Frank I believe is the only one in his office today. When you've been out of work for an extended amount of time suffering daily hidden anxiety attacks and the creeping fear that NO ONE is EVER going to hire you and then someone does you are sooooo grateful for being employed that you will crawl up the Himalayas in a blizzard in flip flops and a bathing suit to get there...and you smile all the way. Because behind that smile is a thought process that says: "I'm (we're) employed so now we can start thinking and planning that maybe, just maybe we can go here:
or here

...or here

or here

or even here

...which means Max will go to the doggy hotel and we'll feel so crummy we might get him the TV room! Or, maybe we'll just go here

There's nothing like reading the travel section again!

January 17, 2011

Working Girl

So I started a new job last Tuesday which I'm nervous and excited about which also leaves me less free time (this is a good thing). Therefore, my creative juices for writing are somewhat spent by my creative juices for working and tackling my projects. Cooking dinner has to be on the quick scale since I'm not sitting around the house with loads of time for, say stews and such not to mention my much ballyhooed bread baking. Well, at least for now until the schedule turns into a routine and then we'll figure it out...Bread baking, I'll be back! But most of all I miss seeing this all day

and this

and this

You get my drift. We did manage to whip up brunch on Sunday before the dreaded Jet Patriot game of which only a bomb falling on the stadium would have been a positive outcome.

Did I mention I miss this?

January 8, 2011

Rediscovering the Joy on a snowy day

Being that Friday was my last full day at home (well technically Monday is but I'll be too much of a wreck to enjoy it) I decided I was going to enjoy it to the fullest and finally follow Frank's advice and "relax, have some fun". This hasn't been easy to do considering all the aforementioned workmen, heat, plumbing issues, etc. But this day was going to be it, its now or never, blah, blah, blah. It started to snow early, before Frank left and he yelled it out loudly. So I got up looked out the window and put Max's coat on
which made him grumpy. He hates the hood which is kind of useless since he has a pointy head and he managed to unhook it on our walk. What he, and Frank, don't get is that no matter what his coat makes life a lot easier because there is less of him to dry off when we get back in the house so he can do this
from the top of the stairs as I go down and then wind up here

which he knows he's not allowed to do. So after yelling at him to get off and going out to take a look at the "storm"

I decided that the best way to "relax and have some fun" was to make some bread. I love baking bread, the proofing, the kneading, the rising, the aroma, the warmth coming from the oven; and the pure gratification that I've actually baked bread. The problem is that with all that proofing, kneading, rising, etc. it takes a while; a good part of the day actually. Something which I don't always have the luxury of time for, today I do! And I know exactly what bread I want to make. I had just received the new issue of Food & Wine last week and had quickly leafed through it, and I must say it is probably one of the best issues they've had in a long time...and there was this recipe for focaccia which had me salivating the minute I saw it...and I can use my KitchenAid
Focaccia with Caramelized Onions, Pear and Blue Cheese
Recipe by Jill Giacomini Basch


  1. 1 cup warm water
  2. 1 package active dry yeast
  3. 1/2 teaspoon honey
  4. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  5. 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  6. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  7. 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  8. 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  9. 1 large Bosc pear, cored and sliced
  10. 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese


  1. In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast and honey and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the oil; let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining flour and the salt and knead until smooth. Transfer to an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and let stand for 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the onion, cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add the sugar, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, 10 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 450°. Oil a 9-by-13 inch rimmed baking sheet. Transfer the dough to the sheet and press it down to fit. Dimple the dough all over with your fingers and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Let the dough rise until puffed, about 20 minutes.

4. Scatter the onions over the dough. Arrange the pear over the onions and sprinkle with the blue cheese. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the focaccia and bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a rack to cool. Serve.

This is as delicious as it is pretty, it's a little on the flatter side compared to other focaccias I've made; closer to a pizza. I did make some changes: I did not add the pear so instead increased the onion, I also did not add the honey to the dough mainly because I wasn't sure what that would do to the taste and I sprinkled the dough with sea salt before baking.
As much fun as this was, it really didn't take that long so I still had loads of cooking time on my hands. Let's see what to do? I know dessert! There's always chocolate of some sort in the house so I'm sure I can come up with something. I pulled out my old trusty "Joy of Cooking" which I've probably had for 35 years. I haven't referred to it for a long time but had looked at it recently for something and while leafing through it realized how complete and intelligible it is; I probably learned to cook from this book more than any other
I made chocolate cornstarch pudding

Easy, old fashioned and just plain yummy

The snow has let up by now and just left us with a beautiful winter wonderland
So on a cold snowy day, you need something to warm up your soul and your bones and your feet and paws

Pasta Fagioli

1/2 lb. bacon, diced.
1 garlic clove, minced
4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons of dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups chicken broth
2  cans (15 oz.) cannelloni beans
6 oz. dried pasta (can be penne, small sea shells, farfalle, orrichetti, just not long)
Salt & pepper to taste
Grated parmesan or romano cheese

In a large soup pot brown diced bacon over medium heat. Add onions; cook a few minutes, then add carrots and celery. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then add garlic and cook for about 3 minutes. Add herbs and one cup of chicken broth, stir well and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the rest of the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about five minutes. Add the beans, bring to a boil, season with salt & pepper, stir in remaining oil. Serve, passing cheese at the table.

Now that hit the spot. How much fun did I have? I can't measure, it's priceless. A simple meal bread, soup, chocolate pudding...immeasurable Joy which shows you there's nothing like simplicity. And what was Max doing all this time?

Lying on his favorite couch...relaxing, having some that's priceless.

January 5, 2011

Unemployment blues

Being unemployed is no fun; unless of course its of your own choosing, which mine isn't to a large extent. On the plus side; yes I was sick of my job and after so many years I guess it happens, I was sick of the people also which sucks because you spend an amazing amount of time with the people you work with and unless you hired them they are for the most part not of your own choosing and in a small place it can be pretty annoying at times. Either way unless you choose to be unemployed its a drag. Its scary, its draining, its depressing, its nerve racking. I've worked at the same place for a veeeerrrrryyyy long time and looking for a job was not high on my list of things I want to do, however I was forced to do so and have hated every minute of it. I have applied for jobs that I am not really interested in but I qualify for therefore I should apply; the fact that they didn't seem to think I was qualified is a whole other issue. But finally something pops up, seemingly out of nowhere...OK Craigslist...that got my creative juices flowing and interest, and the interview was, dare I say it? Fun! OK so I didn't get the job but I did get a freelance contract assignment which thrills me no end. And I got it the day of my Mom's birthday which brings it up a shitload of notches on the Yesssss! scale. I start next Tuesday January 11th, one of those dates with a bunch of ones this year, and Frank says I should relax and enjoy my time. OK, problem is I can't figure out how. And I have found that having time off, wanted or unwanted, has its negatives as well as its pluses of course. So, lessons learned:

I hate, hate, hate, hate dealing with workmen in and about the house. I undoubtedly never know how to explain things to them and I really never know what the Hell they're talking about when they explain what has to be "done" to me. So how appropriate that I should have to get stuck with the boiler breaking down on the coldest day of the year and having to call the boiler people and having then come here and tell me that it had to be replaced (which is the last thing I needed to hear when I'm unemployed) and how they'll come tomorrow and we'll have no heat for the rest of that day and the following. And then....I have to tell Frank when he comes home who blows his top because I didn't call him even though that would've done a lot of good when he was working in the city at 9:30 am other than piss him off and ruin the rest of his day. And later...when they come in and replace the boiler, an all day affair in which Max and I were holed up in the TV room with a portable heater, the guy tells me that the reason the boiler cracked after only 7 years is because there is a pipe leaking under the basement floor which they have to come back and replace, need I say it: Caching, Caching! So here we go with another day of workmen in the house and my having to DEAL with them. Only to hear after the pipe has been replaced and they've broken into my basement floor that the main valve is faulty and needs to be replaced $$$$$$. Then we have the funny sounds coming from the unused toilet in the basement...I go down there and look in at my own peril. Well, I'd rather not describe it. But this tells me one thing...THE SEWER IS BACKING UP....which means if we (I) don;t get the plumber out here right NOW to clear the sewer line it will back up into that toilet and start shooting up....OK, so here's another workman I have to deal with and of course $$$$.

Negative number 2:
I hate, hate, hate having to deal with anything having to do with the car. I drive it and fill it up with stuff. Period. We have been leasing cars for years which means we get a new car before the inspection is due which is a necessary evil (at least in NJ) with cars. BUT, we bought our car last year since it made loads of sense and now it needs inspection before the end of the year and I get stuck with it. Actually, not too bad. Decided to go to a private place in town and they took maybe 20 minutes, nice as could be.

Got to sleep later!
Got to cook more!
Spent more time with our nephews.

Got to play in the snow!

and got to spend a lot of time with this little monkey!

 And no matter how much I miss my Mom and speaking with her, she is with me.
All in all, not so bad. And I have realized that Scarlett O'Hara and Little Orphan Annie are right: "Tomorrow is another day" like this.

January 3, 2011

House of Fire

So 2010 finally came to an end and not soon enough as far as I'm concerned. We decided not to give it the usual blaze of glory goodbye and just spend some nice quiet time at home which of course requires cooking and eating and cooking and eating and cooking and eating...well you get my drift. Lots of cooking and eating.

Breakfast 12/31/10- Homemade English Muffins, yes homemade, with butter and homemade pear jam!
Then we're off to Costco which I know doesn't sound very exciting for a New Year's Eve but the larder is running perilously low and besides you have to do something during the daylight hours. Big decision time, what to make for dinner? Well considering that we just came home with dubious amounts of meat and poultry we should be able to come up with something. "How about rack of lamb?" Frank says, "Sure, whatever" I say since I couldn't get lobster which is what I really wanted to make, other story. And, since baby it's cold outside, we'll put on a fire:

Now we're talking! We have some lovely spinach I bought at the Eden Gourmet the other after I drove over 30 inches of snow in their unplowed parking lot:

dinner is spinach salad, roast rack of lamb and Au gratin potatoes:

ate around ninish, went upstairs to watch TV with Maxy

fell asleep around 11:40 PM and woke up around 12:45...oops missed the big moment, oh well. Watched Matewan until about 4:00 am. Works for me!

January 1, 2011! Yay, it's a new day and typically our laziest day of the year (we say, ha) which means we do nothing much for most of the day, mainly cause everywhere we wanted to go was closed. Time for dinner, what to do, what to do. I have a chicken, hmmm, don't feel like roasting it especially since the way I roast it is from the Zuni Cafe cookbook and I should have started yesterday; Frank suggests something Moroccan and stewy which sounds good to me and I figure a Tagine of some sort which I really don't need a recipe for but I decide to bring out Paula Wolfert's Slow Mediterranean Kitchen book
for inspiration and find that she really doesn't have any stewy chicken dishes which surprises the hell out of me, however I find this little gem: Double Cooked Red Chicken Marrakesh style. So much for stewy; this sounded absolutely amazing, and it was. I didn't have to cut the whole chicken up either which was nice, just remove the back and tie it back together to keep its shape. Here is the recipe, adapted from her book:

Serves 4
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
1 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 whole chicken, backbone removed and cut in pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika, preferably Spanish
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Pinch of ground ginger
Cayenne pepper
1 small onion, grated

1. In a mini food processor, mash the garlic with the parsley saffron and 1 teaspoon of salt. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the melted butter.
2. Re-form the chicken by tying it up with kitchen string and rub the garlic paste all over. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.

3. Put the backbone pieces in a large enameled cast-iron casserole and ad the chicken breast side up. In a bowl combine 1 tablespoon of the paprika with 1/2 teaspoon of cumin, the pepper, ginger and a pinch of cayenne. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the chicken and cook over moderately low heat until steam begins to rise, about 5 minutes.

4. Mix the grated onion into 1 1/2 cups of water and pour around the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the juices run clear, about 1 hour. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board, remove the string keeping chicken intact.
5. Discard the backbones. Skim off the fat from the sauce, reserving 3 tablespoons. Boil the sauce until it is reduced to 1 cup, abut 15 minutes.
6. Preheat the broiler. Stir the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of paprika and 1/2 teaspoon of cumin into the reserved fat, add a pinch of cayenne and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Put chicken in a roasting pan breast side up and rub with the spiced fat. Broil until browned, about 10 minutes. Carve the chicken, passing the warm sauce.
The depth of flavors is awesome, and the chicken is super duper tender. I took a few liberties: She uses cilantro instead of parsley, I'm not a lover of it, her recipe uses two chickens, I used one but kept most of the same amounts for the spices and sauce. She suggested garnishing with sliced preserved lemons which I would have done but time...Frank grated the onion cause he's the best hubby. We lit another fire

and ate in the living room again. Chicken served with jasmine rice.

Max walked around trying to look inconspicuous

We ate every morsel

Sorry buddy boy

Day one is in the far so good. Here's hoping!