Musing with Max

Musing with Max

June 27, 2012

Meatless Tuesday

Frank and I have for the most part been pretty healthy eaters. By that I mean well balanced because we pretty much eat everything. I cook dinner almost every day so I know exactly what is going into our meals, have cut back on the starch a bit which is tough for a couple of cubans since we eat rice with everything but I think we've been able to adapt well. For instance, instead of having steak with potatoes each time we have it we'll accompany it with either a Caesar salad or a wedge salad with blue cheese and olive oil or a vegetable side dish. And we'll keep it interesting by having meat, chicken, pasta and fish dishes throughout the week. We do eat bread almost daily but not an entire loaf and limit desserts to the weekend; well that's a lie since I got the ice cream maker and something that will have to change because Frank can eat whole pint and gain one ounce, if that, but I'm short and female...a whole other story. So in my continued attempts to eat healthier I decided a while ago that one day a week would be a vegetarian day and I decided it would be Monday...Meatless Monday, which I think I pilfered from a blog...sorry. Not to worry though, my plagiarism didn't pan out too well, I think we had two meatless Mondays. It requires too much planning and besides maybe we're not in the mood that day so as long as we have "meatless" it could be any day, hence yesterday---Meatless Tuesday, so I made Frank and egg salad (better know as Famous Amy's egg salad) sandwich for lunch since he works in the hinterlands of Brooklyn and I have to make his lunch everyday or else he has to eat McDonald's or Dunkin Donuts, and as you can see Max is riveted by this.

Anyway, step two is finding great vegetarian dishes and in scouring the web I've found quite a few that are quite tantalizing; but not in the Summer since most of them are stewy root vegetable concoctions which always involve sweet potatoes. Then I scoured my cookbooks and found this from an old Time-Life cookbook series

and Max started to get increasingly bored, vegetables, pasta, yawn.

but I was very happy!

Ditalini Gratin with Jalapeno Pepper-adapted from Time-Life

Serves 6 as a side dish or Frank as a main dish

8  oz. ditalini (or other small tubular pasta-I used elbows)

11/2 lb. ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped or 14 oz. canned whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 cup low-fat milk (I used whole organic)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deribbed and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, finely diced (I didn't have any, used goat cheese)

Put tomatoes, onion and milk in a large, heavy bottomed skillet, and bring the mixture to a boil.

Add the ditalini, jalapeno pepper, garlic, cumin, salt and a liberal grinding of pepper. Stir to mix thoroughly, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Simmer the mixture for two minutes, stirring from time to time to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom. Preheat the broiler.

Pour into the skillet just enough water to cover the ditalini. Cook the pasta, removing the lid frequently to stir the mixture and keep it covered with liquid, until the pasta is just tender and a creamy sauce has formed

about seven minutes. OK, I used a saucepan instead of a skillet so it took a little longer, works either way.

Transfer the contents of the skillet to a gratin dish. Sprinkle the cheese over the top

and broil the pasta until the cheese is melted-two to three minutes


Now to find a good hiding place for the ice cream maker.

Did you say ice cream?

June 25, 2012

June Flowers in the House

The mini heatwave had me quite worried, the hydrangeas were droopier than I'd ever seen them and I frankly thought they might not recover. But then the heat broke and took the icky humidity with it which in turn let everything perk right back up and let us practically move outside for the beautiful weekend
but not before we cut some flowers
and had loads of fun arranging them

and spreading them throughout

cause we need flowers in the house.

It's party day at Jane's

which is always so much fun. Can't wait to see what everyone else has brought.

June 23, 2012

The Longest Day

So Summer arrived with guns blazing, or just blazing actually. The temperatures soared by a good, or not so good, 20 degrees with humidity to match and on the official first day of Summer we were sweltering as if we were in the dog days of August. The dog himself was none too happy
and had second thoughts about lying about outside

which is something he campaigns for every chance he gets. The flowers and veggies were all drooping and sad and had me mighty worried because not only was the heat unbearable, the rains have stopped big time. What to do?
Console ourselves with the the foods of Summer, of course!

Grilled Cumin Shrimp on Black Bean Salad- adapted from The New American Kitchen

serves 6 to 8

Grilled Cumin Shrimp

1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 fresh jalapeno, stemmed
3/4 tsp salt
2 lbs. (about 36) large shrimp, shelled and deveined

In a blender or small food processor combine the olive oil, lime juice, cumin, garlic, jalapeno and salt. Process until smooth. In a large bowl combine the puree with the shrimp and marinate at least 4 hours.

Thread the shrimp on sewers, fitting them closely together. Smear any remaining marinade over the shrimp

Grill until they are slightly brown or just done, about 4 to 5 minutes. Or broil like I did since it was too damn hot to get the grill going.

Black Bean Salad

2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed.
(he uses dried black beans and cooks them for a few hours, I can't be bothered with this in the heat of Summer, so I take editorial/cooking license)
3/4 cup of olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 tbsp Dion mustard
2 sweet peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut in 1/2 inch dice1 bunch green onions, trimmed and sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped basil
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl whisk together the olive oil sherry vinegar, mustard and 1 tsp of salt. Add the beans and stir until incorporated. Stir in the peppers, onions and basil. Add a generous grind of pepper.

Serve with the shrimp and some avocado drizzled with olive oil

and then have some ice cream...

Cheesecake Ice Cream-adapted from Cuisinart

Makes about 5 cups

12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature cut into 2 inch pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup mascarpone, room temperature
1 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream, room temperature

1. Out the cream cheese in a bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the mixing paddle. Mix the cream on medium speed until very smooth. With the mixer running gradually add the sugar and salt; mix until homogeneous. Add the mascarpone and mix until well combined. Slowly add the milk and vanilla; mix until smooth. Use the fold function to mix in the sour cream. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or overnight.

2. Turn on your ice cream maker; pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, about 15 to 20 minutes.

The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture

Eat by itself or drizzle with raspberry or cherry topping.

Happy Summer!

June 13, 2012

Who'll Stop the Rain

So I asked for rain, who knew I had that kind of power, maybe I should hire myself out during droughts in the West. It won't stop, just rain rain rain rain rain. The garden is soaked, and a standstill in the growth department since there's no Sun, except for the weeds of course, they grow no matter what. We had a respite on Monday which meant I spent the day out there weeding away and hacking back the wisteria which was threatening to pull a Stephen King on the patio furniture
luckily there was no one sitting there. My tomatoes have grown but no fruit yet and the poblano and portuguese peppers are the exact same size as the day I planted them, except that the portuguese has a tiny little pepper growing. I filled three bags with giant things that were growing in the ivy by the back fence, unwanted things. My new plantings in the refurbished flower bed look fine but small. Luckily the Stella D'oros are blooming away which brightens up these dreary days

and the hydrangeas have grown quite large

and filling up nicely

however they are massive; over 6 feet tall and spilling into the driveway. I will have to trim them, which is something I've never done and am a bit nervous about but it has to be done. Any tips on this will be greatly appreciated! In the meantime we NEED SOME SUN, and the warm Summer temperatures of April because it's cold too. So we'll cook something warm and homey.

Arroz Relleno (Stuffed Rice)-my mother-in-law's favorite dish.
serves-a whole bunch of people, or about 6

1 chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
Dried oregano to taste
1 to 2 tbsp of tomato paste
2 cups of rice
1/2 cup of mayonnaise or more as needed.

Take one whole chicken and boil it until cooked, about one hour.
Remove the chicken from the pot and let it cool. DO NOT discard the broth.
When the chicken is cool, remove it from the bone shredding the meat.

Place the rice in a sauce pan and cover with 3 1/2 cups of the chicken cooking liquid, bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat. (do NOT salt the rice.)

In a large skillet heat 1 to 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion, pepper and garlic; sautee about 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the shredded chicken, season with salt, pepper and oregano, be generous. Mix the chicken with the vegetables and cook for about five minutes, add the tomato paste and stir it into the mixture, add a little of the chicken cooking broth and mix well. Cover and cook over medium heat about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 350F and grease a 5 cup baking pan, (a bundt pan is specially nice).

Spoon 1/3 of the rice into the baking pan smoothing it out evenly. Spread 1 to 2 tbsp of mayonnaise over the rice, evenly. Spread half the chicken mixture evenly over this layer
cover that with another third of the rice, spread the rice with mayonnaise again, add the remaining chicken, finally covering with the last third of the rice and finish with a spread of mayonnaise over the last layer of rice. Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven about 25-30 minutes, until mayonnaise melts into the dish. Remove from the oven, pass a sharp knife around the edge to loosen the rice & chicken from the baking dish; place a serving dish on top of the dish and flip it. Gingerly remove the baking dish

Slice, as in cake
My mother-in-law garnishes this with sliced hard-boiled eggs and asparagus spears, which looks lovely but I was too lazy. It doubles nicely.

And we've had enough of homey warmy food, we need some SUN, and no bugs, cause they're out in armies already so we Frank can grill.

Right Max?

We really need some sun.

June 10, 2012


June 11, 1982

My first, my last, my everything and the answer to all my dreams. You're my sun, my moon, my guiding star my kind of wonderful, that's what you are.
I know there's only, only one like you. There's no way they could have made two. You're all I'm living for, your love I'll keep for evermore, you're the first, my last, my everything.
In you I've found so many things, a love so new, only you could bring. Can't you see it's you, you make me feel this way. You're like a first morning dew on a brand new day
I see so many ways that I can love you 'til the day I die. You're my reality, yet I'm lost in a dream You're my first, my last, my everything.
words by the great Barry White...because I'm speechless.'s only the beginning.