Monday, August 4, 2014

July: Cooking and Dining, Yes; Blogging, Not So Much

I did not plan to take off the last six weeks from blogging. I have still been cooking and taking photos of Sunday meals, I just haven't been able to make time to write about them. I like to think that I am busier than ever but I don't know if that's really true. It may be that in my retirement I have become less focused, less efficient; while I stay busy I don't get as much done. I guess that is OK, I am retired after all, except for the frustration of not getting things done. Things like blog posts.

Rather than try to catch up by writing a post for every Sunday since my most recent post, a daunting task, I thought I would write one long post which covers the whole month. Then I could check off all of those unfinished items on my to-do list (draft blog post, publish blog post, draft blog post, publish blog post, etc., etc.). It also gives me license to be brief which is good since I don't remember details of dinner a month ago Sunday.

June 29, 2014
Menu: Grilled Burgers on Slider Picnic "Rolls", Yellow Sweet Corn, Salt Potatoes, The Mussel Inn Captain Cooker Manuka Beer, Strawberries and Angel Food
Recipes: Tender Juicy Grilled Burgers from Cook's Illustrated, Mini Picnic Rolls from King Arthur Flour

This was a pretty typical, picnic-y summer meal. I ground beef using the grinder attachment for our stand mixer to make the slider-sized hamburgers. I don't know that it was worth the extra work. It was hard to cook the little patties to medium rare, something you can do safely if you grind the meat yourself, they ended up medium well. The recipe was meant for larger burgers. I made buns using a recipe that suggested using a muffin tin to make slider buns. This created buns that were much too thick. After the first meal we cut a section out of the middle of the bun so there wouldn't be so much bread in the burgers. For salt potatoes I used mini red potatoes; not as good as the little new potatoes from Central New York, but still good. The beer, which Caleb brought from New Zealand, was great! Unfortunately I won't be having  Manuka beer again any time soon. 

July 1, 2014
Recipe: Buttermilk Doughnuts, Cook's Illustrated Baking Book, 2013, p. 66.
Not Sunday dinner, but a story worth sharing. When I first wrote about deep frying, Caleb immediately thought of doughnuts. I suspect he remembers doughnuts I made for him many years ago. When he visited for the first time since I got the frying equipment it was important that I make doughnuts.  I had purchased a new doughnut cutter in anticipation of this and so was ready to go. The dough was very easy to make, stir together the dry ingredients, stir together the wet ingredients, and then combine. I used freshly grated nutmeg, a first for me. The donuts came out great! They were crisp on the outside and soft and tender on the inside, faintly flavored by nutmeg, rich but not too sweet. We coated about half of the doughnuts with sugar cinnamon. They are okay as leftovers, not so crispy as fresh, but still good to eat.

July 6, 2014
Menu: Grilled Salmon, Steamed Broccoli, Rice Pilaf, Vella Chardonnay,  Strawberries and Angel Food
Recipes: Rice Pilaf, The Cook's Illustrated Cookbook, 2011, p. 222; Steamed Broccoli, ibid., p. 252; Grilled Salmon Fillets, ibid., p. 521.

Caryn finished her intense, two-week EMT Boot Camp and to celebrate she got to choose the menu for Sunday dinner. She decided to have salmon with rice and broccoli. I gathered some recipes from a Cook's Illustrated Cookbook. All were quick and easy, the rice pilaf, at only 30 minutes, took the most time. When all was said and done, the rice turned out to be everyone's favorite part of the meal. It was rinsed well to remove surface starch then sautéed in butter with some onion before it was steamed. Usually we just steam rice, but these few extra steps added significantly more flavor. We had a nice leftover meal, too. The salmon was gently reheated then mixed with greens to make a salad. This was served with the rice and broccoli which had been combined and heated.

July 13, 2014
Menu: Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato Sandwiches; Homemade Potato Chips; Baked Beans, Cherries

We were out of town for a wedding on Saturday, and didn't return home until mid-day on Sunday. Thus there was no time for planning, shopping, and cooking an elaborate meal on Sunday. Something simple was called for using what food we had on hand. Rather than creating leftovers for the rest of the week, I used up some leftovers. We had lots of bacon, bread, and tomatoes from our little garden so BLTs seemed a good choice. The beans were left over from an earlier meal. The only cooking I did was to slice some potatoes and deep fry them to make chips. Unlike many meals, timing wasn't an issue as none of the food needed to be served hot.

July 20, 2014
Since returning from vacation in New Zealand I have been enjoying the game of geocaching. Among other fun aspects, it introduces me to new places, in town and beyond. This includes learning about a lot of small, neighborhood parks in the San Jose, I didn't know we had so many! I had been thinking for some time that we would enjoy a picnic for Sunday dinner, even though we eat outdoors at home for half of the year. I took no photos but we packed up some rolls, sliced roast beef, store-bought broccoli salad, and potato chips and headed for a nearby park. We were prepared to visit several parks before finding a table but the first park we tried worked out fine. He had a table all to ourselves and enjoyed a nice dinner. Caryn even found a geocache.

July 27, 2014
Because of a medical test scheduled for the following Monday (I'll spare you the details) I was not allowed to eat this Sunday. So I didn't cook. Everyone was on their own for dinner. Everyone survived.

August 2, 2014
Menu: Spaghetti Carbonara, Homemade Sourdough Bread, Garden Salad

I've been wanting to try a new method for making pulled pork on the grill which was described in latest Cook's Illustrated Magazine. However, the last few weekends have not provided enough time to do that. This weekend didn't, either, as we are about to leave for a week in Oregon; pulled pork provides plentiful leftovers, so I'll put it off another few weeks until we get back.  In its stead, I prepared a pasta dish that we had for the first time last Fall and really enjoyed, Spaghetti Carbonara. Indeed, the full menu very closely matches that meal from last September. Perhaps the biggest change was using spaghetti rather than thin spaghetti for the pasta.

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