Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Business Class Pods
Perhaps I should call this from San Francisco to Dulles to Madrid to Zaragoza.  It was a long day, and a long night even though my hubby and I (much to the “It’s not fair” voiced by our fellow traveler and son Trevor and the “it’s cool”, from his traveling companion Evan) rode it in business class. Hey, when you earn the money, and you plan the trip, you get to ride where you ride :-)  That’s MHO. We arrive Madrid at 7:15 a.m. on June 22nd, our 19th wedding anniversary.  Excited, but tired.  After walking, what felt like a mile, to the Immigration Control area, more or less a place to turn in your “visitor declaration” and get an “official” cursory look at your passport, we were on our way to get our bags, get our car and drive to Zaragoza.  Our plan was to drive the short 190 KM (about 118 miles, so what an hour and a half two hours?) from Madrid to Zaragoza and spend a nice afternoon relaxing and taking in some of the sites.  We had booked an apartment that was close to the Basilica and old town and are chomping at the bit to get this vacation started.

 Our VW Passant awaits us, I told DH I thought we might want to get a GPS nav system, but being a man, he thought it would be easy enough to navigate ourselves AND after all, he had lived in Spain AND spoke and read the language.  So between my iPhone, a regular old-fashioned paper map and his manliness, we set out.

By the time we get on the road, it’s 9:00 on a Tuesday morning.  This is also called “rush hour”.  We are instructed by our “Avis” counter guy to take the R2 once we get out of the airport; take it straight to Zaragoza.  First things first, how do we get out of the car rental lot?  There are no signs to show the way to the exit.  There are no arrows, lines or other instructions, and damn they park these cars close together and the space between rows is TINY… most of what America drives would not  be able to drive in this lot, nor many of the streets we traveled.  When traveling in older cities, you drive on older streets.  Streets meant for horses, buggies and wagons.  But I digress.

Actually in Eppstein Germany, but it gives you and idea.

I’m just getting out of the airport, with all three of my helpful backseat drivers giving me the “watch out for that”; “oh, be careful there”; “why are you going so slow?” when out of the corner of my eye, off to the side of the road I see R2…”Um guys” I say, “was that my exit?”  Yes, yes it was.  Ok…I’m in a very cheerful and forgiving mood, so no problem, I’ll just go up here and turn back towards the airport and we’ll catch it the next time though.  After all, I know where it is now.  Problem.  Remember that thing about “rush hour”?  Well, they also have these things called “Roundabouts”.  It’s how you make turns and get on other routes in Spain.  You don’t go up to an intersection and wait at a light and then turn left or right, you get yourself into this roundabout and then go roundabout until you find the street you need to go onto and then you get out of the roundabout.  Sounds easy enough, but there are cars coming in from all those side streets too, the ones you want to get to.  And they are going across the roundabout to get in position to get out.  And they know what the fuck they are doing and I have no clue how this is going to work, so I sat there a few minutes, just to watch the “dance” and finally say “OK…here we go” and close my eyes (well, not really but kindof) and get into the fray and guess someone was looking out for us because no one hit us, I didn’t hit anyone, and I got out where I was supposed to.  Once I made it once again to the R2, things were much more civilized.

As the boys slept (napped) in the backseat, Brian and I got to see the sights.  Guess what there is between Madrid and Zaragosa?  Not much.  It looks like anywhere USA.  Except for the big old bulls.  Bull signs I mean.  They don’t have anything on them, but we were told they use to be billboards for a Spanish Sherry company, the government thought the signs were too distracting so they made them take the billboards down; now just the bulls remain.  Since everyone in Spain knows the back story, the sherry company is really still advertising on the highways.  Only for free.

Sherry Bull Sign on the R2

We soon found out our drive from Madrid to Zaragoza, was not 190KM, it was 190 miles…or 305 KM.  Oops, read that map wrong.  Our plan to have breakfast in Zaragoza was dashed, perhaps a late lunch?
As we drive, we notice some gas station / tapas places along the side of the highway; so we decide to stop, get a bite to eat and an expresso.  The one we choose, I don’t think it was the best one to choose.  The Spanish like to smoke, and they throw their cigarettes on the floor, no need for an ashtray. At this particular stop, they didn’t seem to see a need to sweep the floor either.  But hunger took precedence over our visual so we had our first, of many, Serrano ham and cheese sandwiches on a typical roll.  It held us over. And wasn’t half bad either.

When we arrived in Zaragosa, we put the address of the apartment in my phone and start the process of trying to navigate city streets filled with speeding cars.  As we get closer to old town, the streets narrow down, only enough room for one car in one direction, but these are two-way streets so you just stop as far over as you can get and let people go by, or if they stop, you go.  We were told the apartment is close to the Basilica del Pilar and the river.  Well, the river’s  to my left, the Basilica is to my right, we must be near…right?  But how to get there?  My iPhone is having problems keeping a signal and of little help; so I turn right, then turn left and we start down this little tiny street and I’m thinking holy cow, where did I get us into, when we spy the hotel where we are to pick up the keys to the apartment.  Lucked into that one.  No parking.  Wait, up there, just a ways ahead, there’s a space.  Lucked into that.  I’m glad that no one thought to video me trying to parallel  park on this very narrow street with cars on both sides in a car I’m not totally familiar with (I really am a good parallel parker) but I did get the car pretty close and as I was going to let Trevor try his hand at doing a better job an angry mean old Spanish man comes and starts yelling at us in Spanish “You hurt my car” (remember, my hubby speaks the language – so he translated) and then we told the mean old man, “we didn’t touch your car”.  Then the guy started yelling something fast and furious, we didn’t understand; finally a nice old Spanish man comes to  calmly explain that we had parked in a handicap space.  OK my bad…we’ll move the car.  Did they have any suggestions as to where one might be able to park?  ”Yes” angry old Spanish man says, “go 2 blocks, turn right and there is parking at the Basilica.  OK…now I’m a nice forgiving person, and I’m sure something was just lost in the translation, because when I went 2 blocks, made a right and drove down the mostly pedestrian crowded street, I ended up on the Plaza del Pilar with the Basilica looming straight ahead and the customers at their tables in various restaurants eating their lunch just staring at me as I tried to figure out how to get out of the Plaza del Pilar without running anyone over.  Apparently in Spain nobody even flinches when a car drives onto a plaza filled with people and restaurants.  I made a K and a U and another K turn (avoiding the man in the middle of my exit way who had decided right then set up shop and sell lottery tickets) and found my way back to playing chicken with the pedestrians and finally to the underground parking lot.  Whew! I’m done driving for today.

We get the keys to our apartment, and it is GREAT.  Close to the Plaza, how about practically on the Plaza.  The Basilica is right there.  Restaurants; beer, pizza…WOW, let’s go.

Daytime view from our room

Nighttime view from our room

Trevor and Evan decide to chill for a bit at the apartment and then they are going to go off and explore.  That’s cool.

I think they might have been trying to figure out what this extra toilet was for...

Brian and I decide to go get a bite to eat and a beer for him, a glass of wine for me.  So we set off to the plaza to find a place.  It’s like a friggin carnival.  Each restaurant has someone standing outside calling to you “Here, here, a table here for you”.  They all serve about the same things so we sit at a nice shady table and order a Pizza Margherita and the beer, wine and a large water.  The pizza is not good.  We should have known better, it is after all just a big tourist attraction.  But the beer and wine go down well, and the pizza fills a void in the belly soooo….it’s all good.  We are on vacation.  No worries.

The local beer, it was cold, it was good.

After lunch we walk into town, it’s a cute town, filled with little shops, clothing stores and shoe shops.  We catch up with the boys and decide to “buy them their first beer” at the local bar.  About halfway into them we all decide that we are just too tired to stay up and walk back to the apartment for a much needed shower and nap.

Don't bother me, I'm sleeping

LindySez: Coming up – Anniversary Dinner and a sly dog…

More photos on my Facebook

TheTalel of Herr Dr. Frei

Trouble in Munich
Did we eat our way through Spain, Germany and a very small part of Alsace?  Yes, yes we did.  We had memorably good and not so great meals.  But memories they are.  And while this foodie journey is NOT going in chronological order, it is going to go in some sort of order.  I’m just not sure what order it will be.  But come along, and I hope the tales are good.

We arrived in Munich on the 29th of June; flying in from Madrid.  It’s 8:30 at night, but of course it’s still light.  We get our luggage and head for our first taxi ride…on the autobahn.  For those not familiar, the autobahn is the German highway’s answer to the Indy 500 but without the “only left turn”…and unless otherwise indicated, the speed limit is up to the driver.  Let’s just say, if you are faint of heart, you want to be sure to stay out of the far left lane.
 Our taxi driver, a nice man and apparent expert in autobahn driving took an easy cruise to our hotel, at 250 km (that’s about 155 MPH) all the while showing us sites left and right…and talking to my husband sitting shotgun.  Trevor and Evan, both 17, are thinking this is really cool as does my husband, but they are not sitting on the hump in the middle of the backseat with precious little to hold onto.  The Door’s song “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel” jumps into my head, repeatedly.  But we make it safely to our hotel, the Kings Hotel First Class in downtown Munich.

The Kings Hotel First Class is a 4 star hotel.  If you have never traveled in Europe, a 4 star hotel may only mean you have room for you AND your luggage being in the same room at the same time.  AND it may have air conditioning.  That may work. Or not.  The boy’s room is fine for them, but our room is smaller…hubby off to the rescue.  Upgrade to a suite.  We now have two rooms, a bigger space but unfortunately unknown to us, the old air conditioning unit that doesn’t work…and it’s a record hot spell…oh well, we do have extra room.

The boys are so excited to get out and “taste” the beer gardens.  They make arrangements with the hotel for bikes (free) and off they go.  It is then we look outside to see what we can see, and what do we see?  The porn store, the strip club, the casino…ummmm 4 stars?  Well, it is a nice hotel…and entertainment is close by…another added plus???  As it turns out, there were many people riding bikes at 11:30 at night and it was actually a very safe area.  Got to get my head out of American logic…

The next day, after tooling around town, we decide to go to a beer garden for dinner.  I mean what else are you going to do in Munich?  We decide, after many recommendations, to go to Augustiner Keller Beer Garden.  I’m not expecting much, and at first they really deliver.

It is a huge place, they serve around 7,000 people a day during the season.  First order of business, find a place to sit.  There is the beer “garden”; literally tables set in the trees where they will bring you your steins of beer and you go to various stands to get food.  No places to sit, but I really wasn’t so much into the serve yourself mode anyway,  so we mosey up to the “we serve you here” part of the garden.  There are many tables open, but they all have reservation signs on them (the hotel told us they didn’t take reservations but apparently they do, if you have the right number of people or a special occasion..I’m hungry, and in Germany, special enough?…)

Augustiner Keller Beer Garden

The tables are long with one butting up against the next.  As I pass through a party of 4 gets up to leave…thinking it’s the “In n Out Burger” model, cruise around until you see someone leave and then snag the table, I am ready to jump in a chair and spend the $.50 to text the others I have conquered a seat.  But to my dismay the waiter comes over and gives me a look…”Can we sit here?” I ask sweetly.  ”How many?” he responds brusquely.   Smile…”four”…he looks around and give me a nod…yes, I have been honored to sit.
I’m still not expecting much…after all, if they serve over 7,000 meals a day, then how good can the food be?  And then there is this whole feeling of the “cross sale” and the “sell as much as you can” and the feeling of “move the customer, turn the table”… but we are seated…big ass beers are served, along with my tiny little Pinot Grigio,  and dinner is ordered…

These are some big ass beers!

By our waiter’s suggestion Trevor and DH are getting the “everything we make and serve in Munich plate”… Evan and I are holding out for Wiener Schnitzel.  The food is promptly brought…(remember…move the customer, people is money, more people is more money) and you know what?  It’s good.  Well done.  Well prepared.

The "everything we make" plate


Wiener Schnitzel Recipe


As we are prone to do, we start talking to our waiter.  The pace of the dinner slows…a reserved sign goes on the tables next to us, taking up 8 places…reserved for Dr. Frei at 12:00 midnight.  Our waiter, Tilo starts to talk to us about foodie things, he brings us some cheese that a friend of his makes…we have a couple of Jagger shots…I have another glass of wine, it’s a fine evening.  Dessert is fresh berries and cream, Apple Strudel…good times.  He’s telling us about how many people they serve and how many large steins of beers they can each carry (the best can do 12, 6 in each hand)  and how it all works.  I comment; “and you work late hours too, as I see you have a reservation for midnight”.  He laughs and lets us in on his secret.


He had been having a bad day and was in a bad mood.  His boss had been on his ass and he wasn’t happy at all.  When I asked if we could sit, his first gut jerk reaction was to say no…go away.  But he didn’t and between our talks of life in the states, his sharing his life in Germany, including many hopes and dreams, he felt happy.  He was glad we were there and didn’t want anyone jostling behind us with big mugs of beer or plates laden with food, so he put the “RESERVED” sign down so no one would sit there.  Yes, he took out a table for 8 for us.  And Dr. Frei, will it’s just his Dr. Free…as in, keep the table free.  Did he get a little extra on his tip?  Yes, yes he did.  And a meal that was supposed to take less than an hour to serve and get us out of there, went on to about 3 hours…each and every minute a pleasure.  We will all remember his as one of the best meals we had!

A fine time was had by all...

But maybe more for some than others :-)

LindySez:  Remember it’s the experience.  And you always have the ability to change your experience…at any time.

A European serch for...Iced Tea

I drink iced tea.  It’s my beverage of choice when I’m not enjoying a fine glass of wine or a cocktail.  And not flavored iced tea, no lemon, no sugar, just plain black tea served over lots of ice.  Lots of ice.  I don’t like warm iced tea.  Then it’s not iced tea, it’s just bad tea.  Iced tea, it’s the pause that refreshes.

Iced tea is not common in Europe.  Not common? That’s an understatement.  While Lipton has founds its way into some of the grocery stores, it’s all sweetened, lemoned and or peached.  Not my cup of tea.  So after many many bottles of water (we did hit Spain right after the cold spell snapped directly into unseasonable warm humid weather) I was thrilled when on Day 7 I spied a Starbucks in Madrid.  Starbucks, a Tazo Black Iced Tea, Unsweetened, extra ice…I could visualize it.  Oh happy days.

We enter, they have the usual suspects, Caramel Frappuccino, Iced Latte, Mocha Iced Coffee and tea.  Not iced tea, just tea.  So how hard can it be? I’ll just tell them how to make an iced tea.  They have tea, they have ice, they have iced tea and just don’t know it yet.  My husband speaks good Spanish so I set him to the task.  ”Tell her” I say, “that I want a tea and a venti cup filled with ice (I know y’all speak Starbucks, but just in case you don’t, venti is the tallest cup, with tall being the smallest cup).  She looks at him, puzzled.  He repeats it, in a slightly different way.  She again looks puzzled…”You want me to put a tea bag into a cup of ice?” she asks him in Spanish…”No” he explains, “make the tea and then pour it over the ice”.  She shrugs, but goes on to get a cup with hot water, puts in the tea bag and gets the big (I mean venti) cup of ice.

While the tea brews we stand aside.  There is here, as in most Starbucks, a line.  About 6 people stand in line when my tea is ready.  She looks over at us, a questioning look in her eyes, my husband demonstrates the move, pour the hot tea over the ice. She does.  The line gasps.  They start talking amongst themselves.  They have never seen anything so crazy before, they are all a twitter.  I walk up and take my prize.  Their mouths gape as I take my first delicious sip.  AWWWW…yes!  Heaven.

We move on.  Day 10 approaches.  We are in Freiburg, Germany (Deutchland)…viewing a wonderful old church.  The town of Freiburg was totally demolished in WWII, but it was generally understood that churches were to be spared, it’s one of the reasons there are so many beautiful churches to see.  This particular church did suffer some damage and the results of the bullet holes caused by strafing are evident on the exterior.

The boys see the results of shell damage to the church

The interior

It’s another hot, and unseasonable humid day.  We are walking when off to the left, right under the historic archway entry into the city, what should I see?  McDonald’s!  Another of my best places to get an iced tea, since they are still one of the few that actually does fresh brewed tea.  Well, I reason, if they don’t have it on the menu, I can certainly explain once again how to make one.

Not your typical golden arches

Different McDonalds Menu

First problem, they don’t have it on the menu.  Second problem, none of us speak German.  OK…we can do this.  So again, I order a hot tea, and a large cup of ice (eis).  The young girl at the counter shrugs, and brings me my hot water, tea bag and glass of ice.  Life moves on to the next person in line.  I go over to a table and brew my tea; wait, I need a top for my big cup of ice so once I pour the water in I have a proper McDonald’s Iced Tea.  I go back and ask the young lady for a top, she gives me one for the tea.  No, I need one for the ice.  Confusion on her face, but shrug, she gives me one.  I complete my iced tea…good to go.  But my hubby says “You should go show it to her”…so I do.

Everything you need, for a proper iced tea

I walk up to the counter and she looks at me.  I open the lid with the straw in it and show her, perfectly brewed black tea poured over ice.  She looks at it…surprised.  ”Ja??? Just tea on ice????  ”Ja”, I say.  ”I’ve never seen such a thing” she says.  ”It’s on every menu at McDonald’s in America” I reply.  An incredulous “NO” is the response.  ”Ja Ja” I say, “and at Starbucks too.”  She was stunned.   I’m sure she Googled it that night while trying to prove to her boyfriend that such insanity did exist, but only in America.

LindySez: Imagine the pure joy of arriving at Dulles International Airport.  Walking up to the Starbucks counter.  Ordering a Venti Black Iced Tea, unsweetened, extra ice…that’ll be $2.40 is the only reply.

Recipe for a Perfect Iced Tea

4 tea bags (your choice, I like black or green, but use whatever)
2 cups water (preferably filtered or spring)
Additional Water (same as above)

Put the tea bags in a 2 cup glass measuring cup.  Add 2 cups water.  Place in microwave for 4 1/2 minutes.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Remove tea bags squeezing out any excess water.  Pour tea into a 1 quart container and add water to fill.  Pour over a large glass filled with ice.

If you have to add a sweetener use a simple sugar.  Put 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar into the 2 cup measure.  Microwave for 2 minutes or until the sugar is dissolved.  Add, as desired, to your tea.  (This way you don’t have to stir stir stir trying to mix the sugar with the ice cold drink).

You can also muck this up with lemon.

I am Not Martha Stewart

So I’m sitting, enjoying my beautiful Saturday morning.  A cup of coffee and the paper. I open up the Home and Garden Section and peruse the Martha Stuart column; this one happens to be very timely, it’s about “How to keep your grill glowing”.  And here’s her advice for Gas grills:

With EACH use: Preheat grill with all burners on high, 10 – 15 minutes.  Scrub the hot grates briskly with a brass bristle-brush. Now, that makes sense.  You do need to preheat the grill before cooking, so preheat it, then clean it, then put the oil on it, then cook.  Gotcha.

Now here’s the part that made me think WTF: After grilling, close the lid and leave the burners on for 10 – 15 minutes to burn off any food, then scrub the grates again.  Really?  Martha, did you buy stock in  American Gas?  Are they a new sponsor?  I don’t know about you all, but propane costs money in my world, and not just a little bit of money.  I can’t afford to be running the tank when there is nothing to heat up for or cook.  In LindySez’s world, you heat it up, cook, then turn it off.  10 minutes of propane is enough to cook a steak, or a least some burgers.

So here’s the LindySez version of keeping your grill glowing:

1.  Do check your drip pans, and empty them of grease.
2. Do preheat your grill for 10 minutes or so before putting food on it.  And once hot, scrub off any residual food.
3. After cooking, make sure you shut off the tank and the burners, immediately.  Close the lid, to keep the bees and other critters out, and when your are ready to cook again, go to step #1.

Here’s my grill when I start:

Not pretty

And when I actually put food on it…
Now, that's ready for food!

LindySez: You can be fussy,  you can be overly fussy, and then you can be Martha Stewart fussy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hash, High School and His Family

My son graduated high school…YAY!  I have to (hate to) admit, but there have been a few times over the course of the last couple of years that I wasn’t so sure he would make it.  Not that it is entirely his fault, we moved him around a lot during the past few years and I think he figured that his social skills were more needed than his brain skills.  Not that he didn’t take a fairly impressive course of acedemics during the course of his high school years;  IB (that’s stands for International Baccalaureate) Bio, the year he took two math courses, Algebra 2 and Physics…that’s the year I told him he was insane.  And maybe that’s what happened, because this year he took Choir, Drama, IB Film, Arthurian Legend, along with the required Government/Economics.  And he passed.  By the hair (hairs) on his chiny chin chin.  Oh, he did fine in Choir and Drama, but the rest of his grades sucked big time.  But graduate is graduate, and now he has to do what the big boys do and FIND A JOB and to continue on to college.
So up for his graduation ceremony comes my FIL and his wife.  I have friends who are big time foodies and will eat anything I put in front of them, and then there are those that think that Mimi’s Cafe and Olive Garden offer good eats (no offense if you think the same, to each their own) so exotic flavors are not going to be showing up at the dinner table.   The good news is, I can make a pretty big impression just by making a rotisserie chicken.
“You actually can make that at home?” my FIL asks “we always buy ours at Sam’s Club”.  Yep, you can  actually make that at home…
Sunday dinner is always a fairly big dinner, we called it our “red meat, red wine” dinner.  So I decided to rotisserie a Prime Rib that I had bought and froze during the Christmastime Prime Rib give-away.  Really, everyone has Prime Rib on sale during Christmas and New Years, it’s the meat of choice for holiday dinners.  Since I go out for Christmas Eve, and went out this year for New Years Eve,  I froze my treasure.
When I freeze meats, chicken, or fish, I always use my Seal-a-Meal. This handy dandy device removes all the air from the bags which allows the food to stay in the freezer for up to a year with no ill effect.  The worse thing for frozen food is air; air and moisture cause freezer burn.  And while food that has suffered freezer burn is still edible, it’s not very pretty and usually has lost a lot of its moisture.  There of course is a cost ($$) for using this, but for me it’s more than worth it.  I buy in bulk, portion it, seal-a-meal it, freeze it and when it comes time for thawing it, I throw it into a cold pot of water and it thaws quickly.  They do say that you can reuse the bags, but YUCK…I don’t think so.  I can’t imagine putting new chicken into an old chicken bag, no matter how fastidiously I washed it.
There may also be a psychological childhood memory that prohibits me from reusing bags.  We had a neighbor, and she would recycle her zip top bags, baggies, plastic shopping bags, whatever.  She always had wet bags hanging all over the kitchen.  She also “recycled” grease.  Not just cooking oil, like you used to fry some fries in, but grease.  Like bacon grease (o.k. to save some, great on green beans, or to flavor some potatoes) but she would have a big can, with multiple kinds of grease in it.  Bacon, sausage, meatloaf drippings, anything that rendered fat got put into that can.  Then she would take a big old spoon of it and use it to cook.  UGK…makes me want to vomit.
Our Prime Rib roast dinner was tasty.  I served it along with some twice cooked potatoes (using some blue cheese as the cheesy part); and introduced them to Fava beans.  They loved them, although after having them help in the double shelling process, I’m pretty sure they will never make them at home.  So now, what to do with the left-over roast?
I love French Dip sandwiches.  And prime rib French dip sandwiches are the best. Unfortunately, my husband “carved” the roast in such a way as to make it impossible to slice it.  So it was decided Sunday morning when he asked for some Corned Beef Hash.  Well, I don’t have any corned beef, but I do have some prime rib.  And so it was done.

Roast Beef Hash

LindySez:  Cheers to all our graduates and the future of America.

Dinner Possible X's 2

Is your weather as crazy as mine?  One day it’s near 80 degrees and the next day it’s cold and rainy.  Makes it hard to really get into the mood, or even know which wardrobe to pull from.

I planted my garden last weekend, and it’s also confused; although admittedly the lettuces are doing great, as well as peas and Fava beans.  Have you ever had Favas (and not necessarily with some liver and a nice Chianti)? If you pick them small enough you don’t need to double peel them.  But I’ll write more about them in a Dare to Prepare.

This doesn't have anything to do with this particular story, just a random picture of my mother, and my granddaughter, with my son putting together her new BBQ. Everyone needs a BBQ, IMHO.

For now I have a couple of Dinner Possible ideas; quick cooking although they both require some marinating time, so plan for that.  And both are intended for the outdoor grill, but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, can easily be made on the stove using a grill pan, or in the oven, using the broiler.  So happy cooking!

Menu 1

Teriyaki Tuna Steaks with Grilled Pineapple

Ginger – Scented Jasmine Rice

Menu 2

Indonesian Style BBQ Pork Tenderloin

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes


Ginger Carrot Risotto

(If you don’t know or are uncomfortable with risotto, check out the risotto Dare to Prepare!)

LindySez – I’m ready for warm weather…you?


Some Herbs + Chicken Breasts + Pasta = Dinner Possible

Caught between spring and winter here.  Can’t wait for the summer months to come, and I know, by the end of them, I’ll once again be looking forward to some rain and cold.  But for now, enough is enough.  Not being satisfied with the weather…I think it’s just the nature of our beast.
So here I am, another gloomy day, wishing I could grill something on the BBQ but knowing that water and fire don’t mix.  Besides, I’m really not fond of raindrops falling on my head when I cook.  Still I want to keep my dinner light, but also want it to have that cold weather, rib sticking satisfaction factor.  What to do? What to do?

For the light part, boneless skin-less chicken breasts are always a winner, and they have good mouth feel too.  Sprinkle on some herbs and saute them…good start.  Now for the rest.
What better says summer than zucchini?  Mine are a few months away, so I can enjoy them intermittently from now until I’m so sick of them that I want to scream…last year I had so many and I couldn’t even give the extras away.  It was punishment, I’m sure, from complaining too loudly in previous years about our dismal crop.

Another great taste of summer is basil.  OK, I have the light and the summer parts, now I need the hearty.  For that I decided to use penne pasta and part-skim  ricotta (got to keep in that getting bikini ready mode).  All done in about 20 minutes, from start to finish.  Easy and tasting good.  Something I think the whole family will enjoy, although for those of you with small children, it may take you slightly longer then 20 minutes if your children want to help…in whatever manner they feel is appropriate to your not paying attention to them.

Herbed Chicken Breast with Pasta, Zucchini, Ricotta and Basil


Dinner Possible

Serve this with a chardonnay if you are into the wine thing.  Something with just a little malolactic fermentation.  One without too much oak (I always say, if you want to taste a lot of oak, lick the barrel.) This uses the paired weight theory of  pairing food and wine.  Or try a French Pouilly-Fuisse; same principle.  Or you might want to step into Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio land.  This keeps the dish, and the wine, in the same general region using the wine pairing philosophy of what grows where the wine grows, will go with the wine that grows there.

LindySez: Cheers!  Dinner Possible – done!

Chardonnay - Affinities and Conflicts

Profile: The best Chardonnay for food pairing will be a full-bodied one, that has gone through some malolactic-fermentation with good acid and fruit flavors like apple, pineapple, melon and mango.  A full-bodied Chardonnay will have a buttery or honey finish.  It will feel full in your mouth, almost fatty or chewy.
Some Chardonnay is put in oak barrels for long periods of time, imparting a deep wood flavor.  These wines are not the best to pair with food as the wood is likely to overpower the flavor of the dish being served.
Preparation: Chardonnay goes best with simple presentations such as grilling, roasting or sauteing in butter or olive oil.
Works well with Chardonnay

Likes (Meats and Proteins)

Crab, lobster, shrimp, scallops

Salmon, sea bass, Monkfish

Chicken, Turkey

Pork, Veal, Rabbit


Anchovies, sole, tuna


A salad of mango, papaya and avocado is very Chardonnay friendly

Likes (Vegetables,and fruits)


corn/polenta, sweet potatoes,  fennel, summer squash, spinach

green olives,  mushrooms



artichokes, asparagus, green beans


Sometimes you feel like a nut, and this is nuts. I needed a Chardonnay!

Likes (Nuts)

Almonds, pine-nuts, pecans


Doesn’t really dislike any nuts, must be from California :)


Likes (Herbs and Spices and other flavorings)

Basil, chives, garlic

nutmeg, saffron, tarragon

butter, cream, mayonnaise


Cilantro, dill


barbeque sauce

Making cheese fondue

Likes (Cheeses)

Asiago, Jack, mozzarella


Blue, Camembert

LindySez: But remember, there are thousands of foods, and almost as many presentations, so I can’t mention them all.  I am choosing the most common foods and flavors, if you seen one, like sweet potato, you can pretty safely bet that other foods within the same family will work with, or against that wine.
If something is not specifically mentioned in Like or Dislike; think of it as being neutral.
Cheers to happy food and wine pairing.

My Award?

OK…here’s the thing.  One of my very good cyber friends, although we have met in person, started a blog called Funny or Snot.  Now that right there should tell you something about Poppy and how her mind works, and that kind of mind that she has is exactly why I told her that she should write a blog.  She is funnier than shit and simply tells it like it is.
I’ve met Poppy a couple of times, but the first time was on a cruise that I took with her and 12 other women who all met on-line.  After verifying that we were all in fact women and no one was a stalking dirty old man, we set off to the great Bahamas on a 3 day Carnival Fun Ship.  Now, one thing everyone who went on this journey will tell you (I hope) is that I DO know how to have me some fun.

Lindy Dancing with the Waiters

And one thing they might tell you about Poppy is, it wasn’t the ship rocking as much as it was the 6+ welcome drinks that were bought for her by those very cute boys that made her a little ti ti that night.

Yes, one of many!

And funny enough, Poppy didn’t seem to suffer any of the ills of the sea when she was in the Casino.  Yes girl, show me the money!

Now this assignment, is, I guess to disclose 7 things about yourself.  Since I write mostly about food and wine; I don’t normally get the ability to show my more creative writing style…but I will attempt to tell you 7 things that you may, or may not, find interesting.
1. I do like to drink wine.  It’s one of the reasons I like to cook.  So I can drink wine.  It’s the reason I like to entertain.  So I can drink wine.  I like wine (and a vodka soda or two).
2 I hate Rachel Ray.  I don’t know her personally, but if I did, I think I would tell her to shut the fuck up. Why does she have to prattle on so?  And that nobody, in the real world, could make what she makes in 30 minutes.  And she’s so lucky that everything is exactly where she left it.  That never happens in my house, I spend more time looking for things then I do using them.
3. When I’m cooking, my kitchen is in varying degrees of chaos.  I do like to clean as I go, but don’t always have time. And when I have a dinner party, the food is prepared well in advance to give me plenty of time to clean before guests arrive. I’m a little anal about how my kitchen looks when people are coming over.  A little?  OK…a lot.
4.  When my husband is on the road, cooking becomes secondary to my real life.  My son and I love to have Mac n Cheese (yes, right out of the box, cause it’s the cheesiest ), smoked pork chops and some streamed green beans, this is comfort food.
5. I cook better and am more creative after I have had said glass of wine or cocktail.  It’s also why #3 happens.
6. I do love that my friends, family and even some of the top chefs in town think I’m an awesome cook.  But it would be nice if more of them actually invited me over for dinner.  I don’t care if it’s delivery pizza, it’s all about sitting down and sharing.
7. My husband, while encouraging me to write the LindySez blog, does not read it.  He’s waiting for my next blog – LindySex. That one I think he’ll read.
So now I’m supposed to pass this on to other fellow bloggers.  And if I knew any I could pass it on to, I would, like a hot potato.  But I don’t, so it ends here.

LindySez ~ Cheers, to all is fair in love, war and blogging.  Love you Poppy!

Wok Smoked Mussels

That’s right.  That’s what I’m talking about.  The marvelously delicious and so easy to prepare mussel.
Saturday afternoon.  My honey gets a hankering for some mussels.  Well, we could go to a restaurant and pay anywhere from $15 to $20 per person, and then of course we would have to get a bottle of wine to go with, so I say, I’ll just make them here at home.  They really are easy.  Once we decide on the preparation (Wok Smoked from a recipe I got from our friend Chef Arnold Wong of Baccars in San Francisco) we are ready to go get our ingredients.  Which are pretty darn simple;  mussels, a Serrano pepper, some garlic and some white wine (or you could use sake if you wanted to).  Get a wok, or wide pan, and you are almost ready to go.
First we went to Whole Foods to get the mussels.  I got what sounded like plenty, 2 dozen, but once we got home I thought that didn’t look like enough to make a meal.  So I sent hubby to get some more; he went to another market.  Now the ones we got from Whole Foods were wild, the ones we got from the other market were farm raised.  Each one has to be treated just a bit different.
Farm raised mussels are raised on netting, they attach themselves to the nets to grow and are pretty much clean inside since they don’t really get down into the sandy floor bed.  But the wild ones, they do get sand and grit in them. And nobody really wants to eat sand and grit.   So you need to soak them for about a half an hour to allow them to expel their sand.  You will find sites that tell you to soak them in cold water with cornmeal mixed in…haven’t found that to be too convenient or effective.  Then there are those that tell you to soak them in fresh cold water to allow them to breath; and as they breath they release the sand and grit.  Well, this sounds good in principal, but mussels live in the sea, and fresh water would kill them.  And you don’t want to cook dead mussels.  So do soak them, but soak them in very salty (like the sea) water, for no more than 1/2 hour.  And keep the water cold, in the refrigerator works.  As far as those farmed mussels, take them out of whatever plastic wrapper the idiot behind the fish counter put them in and place them in a large bowl covered with a damp (not wet, just damp) cloth.  You can keep them in the refrigerator for up to a day, but it’s best if you cook them sooner, like within a few hours.
Whether you are cooking with wild, or farmed, when you are ready to cook, you need to give them a good washing.  You don’t really have to “scrub” them, unless you plan on eating the shells, and the shells really aren’t very good to eat.  Wash them and look for the “beard”, a fuzzy stringy thing that sticks out of the opening of the shell.  This is what they attach themselves with.  You could eat it if you wanted to, but they are better without it.  Not all, but most will have one.  To remove this, take your fingers or a pair of needle nose pliers and pull that off, toward the small hinge end of the mussel.  Once again, this is to keep the mussel alive by not yanking that across the inside; which can tear the mussel and kill it.  You don’t want to cook already dead mussels.
OK…the mussels are soaked, cleaned and ready to cook.  Wait a second.  One more small step.  You want to make sure the mussel is alive before you cook it.  If they are tightly closed, that’s good.  Sometimes they are slightly open, breathing.  Give the shell a tap, if it closes up, good to go.  If if doesn’t, it’s dead, throw it away.
NOW, you are ready to cook them.

Wok Smoked Mussels

Did I get the flame?  No, I did not.  And with wine, you have to really really get it the first time as the alcohol burns off quickly.  I really should have used better matches; but this was kind of an impromptu production.  I started getting ready to cook and told my husband “We should really film this” so we did.
We served this with a Pinot Gris and some crusty bread that we toasted and then rubbed with cloves of garlic.  It was a perfect Saturday afternoon lunch.
Mussels are high in protein and low in fat.  They are also very cost effective because unlike clams, their shells are very light so there is a good “shell to meat” ratio.

LindySez: I hope you flex your “mussels”.

BTW – they make a great appetizer at a dinner party, and require no silverware.  You can use one side of the shell to spoon the mussel out of the other side of the shell.

Also remember, if the mussel doesn’t open once it’s cooked…it’s not good to eat.  Throw it AWAY!

Cheers to Sweet Molly Malone

When the Oil doesn't matter - Chocolate Banana Muffins

Even good cooks make mistakes.  And sometimes it’s a good mistake and teaches you something.  Like it did today.
Although I was having a super busy day, while wiping down the kitchen I spied those really really ripe bananas sitting on the counter.  UGH, they were going to be over the top soon, so in the middle of everything, I decided to make some Chocolate Banana muffins; my son has a lot of friends staying over since school is over, and I thought they might enjoy those to have in the morning (who am I kidding, it’s 1:00 p.m. and I think I finally hear them moving about).  So I bring up my recipe on the computer and get most of the stuff out of the pantry; flour, baking powder, you know, the pantry stuff.  And the stuff out of the refrigerator; eggs and milk and start up the oven.  Mixing and sifting and smashing.  Now into the prepared pan; I pop them into the oven.  As I’m just beginning to clean up I realize, I didn’t add the oil.  That’s because the oil was already out, and I didn’t put it where the other ingredients were, it was out side of my mis en place, it was misplaced.  Crap.  So I grab the muffin tin out of the oven and scrape the batter out of the muffin cups and back into the bowl; all except one.  I decided to see just how much difference the oil would make after all my work of scraping and reworking the batter.  You know what?  It made very little difference at all.  Both were moist; although admittedly the ones with the oil were a little lighter, I don’t think you would really notice if you weren’t doing a side by side comparison.  So I guess the bottom line is; if you want to cut back on oil and calories, omit the oil in this recipe.  They are still good.
Chocolate Banana Muffins

Chocolate Banana Muffins

LindySez - There’s always something to learn.  It’s why I love to cook.  Cheers

Friday, May 14, 2010

Stupid Silverware, or What's your Orientation?

I don’t even know where I was, or what I ate.  All I remember is the stupid silverware.  It might be because I’m left-handed…maybe all you righties out there wouldn’t have had a problem handling this design,  but gezz…don’t us lefties have enough challenges in this world without having to deal with silverware that is right hand oriented?
Now, let’s be honest.  Aren’t there places where the silver just doesn’t feel right?  While I hate plastic “silver”, some of it is  still better than this piece of work.
I love watching Diner’s Drive In’s and Dives and one of the first things I notice is…is it ware, or is it plastic.  And is it substantial plastic cutlery or the flimsy cheap, white, plastic?  The kind we used at picnics (pre Costco) and to serve the birthday cake at a child’s party.    Just last weekend I was in Vegas for Vegas Uncorked. At the grand tasting event, even they had real forks.  I’m going to bet (and it would be one of the few bets that I bet I would win) a lot of forks got tossed with the plate, even though they had bins everywhere for putting your soiled forks.   I think that a lot of  people were not focused on what was in their hand, as they hurriedly went from one food venue to another.  Some, I’m sure, really didn’t  give a flying fuck about  “costs” . After all, they did pay for the ticket.  And some of them probably just didn’t pay attention. But if they had had silverware in their hand with this friggin design, they would have noticed.  I might have still tossed it though, to be honest.  Makes me wonder if they hire people to sort through the trash to find the “tossed” silver. What do you think?

LindySez: Come on people…straight handles can be used by lefties and righties, no matter what their orientations….

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm Like the Demon Barber of Fleet Street

I’ve been told I make a really good meatloaf.  I’m told this by people, who sit at my table and announce after they have eaten their 3rd helping, that they never liked meatloaf.

Since meatloaf is one of my son’s favorite meals, I make it quiet often.  It’s not only good for dinner, but makes great sandwiches.  So it was inevitable that some of my husband’s business associates, coming over for an impromptu dinner while visiting our great city, would get the “meatloaf” treatment.  I have to admit that most of them were pretty good actors because when told that dinner was meatloaf they never even flinched.  I guess they figured they could eat the mashed potatoes and what ever veggie was being served, and maybe choke down some of that meatloaf.  Like I said, they only told me the truth after their 3rd piece.  So I guess it must be pretty good.

So today I played like the Demon Barber of Fleet Street as I ground up my meat for the loaf, and another 5 pounds for the freezer.  Yes, I grind my own meat.  Why?  Well, there’s this e-coli thing for one, I know how clean my stuff is, I know I wash my hands after I go to the bathroom, I know that I wash my counters and grinder parts in hot soapy water.  I know that.  Plus, I buy my meat in bulk or on sale, I can control the amount of fat I have in it, so I get super lean ground beef, fresh today for $1.99 per pound.  Try to get that at your local supermarket. Oh yeah, and I get to pick my meat.  Not just accept whatever scrapes and pieces they have decided to grind together.  OK…I have to clean up a few “spatters” but that can be avoided by putting a bit of a freeze on the meat; something I just didn’t bother with today.

There are two ways you can grind your meat.  The best way is with a meat grinder.  You can get one with a hand crank for not very much money (about $30 – $40) and think of the exercise benefits, it’s a good shoulder workout; or you can get an electric one for around $150.00; but I have my KitchenAid standing mixer, (and as my friend Poppy says in her blog FunnyorSnot, a KitchenAid standing mixer is something you fight for in your divorce settlement) so I just use the optional grinder attachment…it works great.  If you don’t have a meat grinder, you can use your food processor, using on/off pulses until the meat is finely chopped, but that is best saved for small jobs, a pound or less.  I wouldn’t try to do 5 pounds of meat like that.

The Meat Grinder and 7 Pounds Lean Ground Beef

Lindy’s Meatloaf


The Mix

  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1/2 pound lean ground pork
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped parsley (depends on how much you love parsley)
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup Italian style breadcrumbs (start with the 1/2 cup and work up as needed)
  • 1/2 cup (approximately) ketchup
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

The loaf, ready to bake


  1. Place all the ingredients into a large bowl and using your clean hands mix well. To test the flavors, take a small spoonful; form it into a meatball, and put into a microwave safe dish, microwave for 30 seconds. Taste; adjust your seasonings as needed. If the meatball falls apart add a bit more of the breadcrumbs.
  2. Put into a 9 x 11x 2 casserole pan. Pat it together to form an oblong loaf, it should sit in the middle of the pan. Do not use a loaf pan.
  3. Place in a 350 degree oven and cook for about 2 hours, or until cooked through. Allow to sit 10 – 15 minutes before slicing.


LindySez: I hope you like it!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Fancy Smancy, an Around the World Dinner Party

Sometimes it seems to take longer for me to make up my mind about what to serve for a dinner party, than it actually takes to cook it.  And this one started out innocently enough. We are sitting around our friends apartment, sipping some wine, eating a bit of sushi and cheese while waiting to go to dinner at Fleur d Lys;  our conversation turns to Bravo network’s Top Chef competition…and in particular,  the celebrity chef competition, where Hubert Keller, chef/owner of Fleur d Lys was one of the 3 finalist, along with Michael Chiarello and Rick Bayless.  We were all surprised that Hubert didn’t win; we love his cooking, but as our friend Doug pointed out, Rick won with his final competition meal made up of moles.  Yes, mole is good food. Right then we decide it’s high time we shared another wonderful evening together, eating, sharing good wine and fine conversation.  Everyone get out their phone, check your schedule.  We come up with a date…November 7.  As we are leaving for dinner,  Doug says, “Of course there will be mole, right?”  Ummmm…yeah right. Whatever you say Doug.  Lindy is on it!

And so it began.  I knew I was going to do a mole, and I knew that I wanted to serve it with some small blue corn tamales.  One course down, now, what to serve with?  I didn’t want to make it a whole Mexican theme, so I thought, how about  “Dinner Around the World?”  The world is a big place so now where in the world did I want to go?  And how would one country play with the next one…so to the thinking tank…cookbooks…cut out recipes…saved files…and this is what I came up with…

Dinner Around the World Menu

It looks good on paper…it sounds good in my brain and my mouth thinks it will all play nicely together.  And in the end, it does.  But it was a little more ambitious than I thought it would be.

The appetizers were pretty easy.  I prepared the Yogurt Dipping Sauce on Wednesday, giving it a lot of time to allow the flavors to meld together.  The meatballs had to wait until the day before, so I made those on Friday.  My husband, the Wine Geek and part-time salsa maker, made the salsa the Saturday before with the last of our fresh garden tomatoes and chilies.  I called in an order for 3 sushi rolls, I didn’t make the sushi…I have made sushi, but it’s one of those things that I’d rather buy.  It’s hard to get fish in the store as fresh as they get (and they can make the rolls a lot LOT faster than I  can).

Chips with Guacamole (sorry, hubby made the salsa, and just winged it, so no “recipe”…but pulse tomatoes, chilies, cilantro, salt, pepper, jalapeno, Serrano pepper, and a dash of white vinegar together in a blender and I think you got it)

Greek Meatballs with Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Plated Meatballs with Dipping Sauce

Sushi Plate

Chips, Salsa and Guacamole

The first course, Poh Taek got  started about 5:00 on Saturday; I prepared the seafood and made the stock.  A quick rough chop of lemongrass, ginger root, green onions, lime slices (I can never find Kaffir leaves, so I just slice limes into thin slices and use instead) simmered into some rich chicken stock.

Thinly slicing the scallops

Debearding the mussels

Taste, Taste Taste, then taste again. (Yes, I used a clean spoon each time)

Poh Taek (Thai Coconut Seafood Soup)

Then came  Second… the mole course.  Mole Tradicional with Blue Corn Tamales.  This was fun.  Really it was.  Time consuming but fun.  Mole isn’t that tough,  but I found the  tamales to be a little challenging. I guess, if you make them on a regular basis, you get to understand them and their ways…but  this was only my second time…so a pro I am not. First of all, the recipes lie…all of them.  You will find the truth here…in my recipe…

Mole Tradicional

Blue Corn Tamales

The Limoncillo Sorbet was a lovely pallet cleanser and the Limoncillo kept it soft and scoopable.  You can make this a week or more in advance.


Limoncillo Sorbet

The Main was/is a family favorite.  Since I was a little girl, it has been requested for more birthdays than I can even remember.  From me and my brother and sister as children, to my sons.  Rouladen.  A wonderful mixture of garlic, mustard, onion, pickles and bacon.  My mother made it this way, it is not the traditional German way. They would make rouladen out of thinly sliced meat…not an easy thing to get in the late ’50’s and early 60’s meat counters…(our town didn’t have “butchers”, it had “supermarkets”) so Mom substituted flank steak.  Personally, rouladen made traditionally looks a little like a stuffed turd, I like the spiral of yumminess that shows in the stuffed flank steak version of  My Mother’s Rouladen.  And I don’t think the recipe has changed, in over 50 years, at least not that I can remember.  Along with the Rouladen we served Thyme Mustard Spaetzle, a traditional German dumpling/noodle and Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts.  Brussels Sprouts??? Yep, and a hit.  The trick with Brussels sprouts is you need to get them small, then soak them in salted ice water for about an hour, that takes the smell that so many associate with them, and the bitterness out. Delish!

My Mother’s Rouladen

Thyme Mustard Spaetzle

Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts

So on to the Finale.  And back to California.  Northern California.  So I guess I really should have called this, around the world minus 432 miles.  Apricot Almond Torte, from Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St Helena.  Well, I’ll just say YUM…I made it on Friday, but I could have done it on Thursday.  Held beautifully in an airtight container, on the counter.

Apricot Almond with Brown Butter Torte

I set the table with an international flair…I wish I had taken some pictures before it became the happy place for dinner.  But I am notorious for forgetting to get out the camera and shoot a picture, I’m going to have to get better about that, because I also forgot to take a picture of anything that was served, except the appetizers and  sorbet and that didn’t really film well.

So now that you have a cooking time-line…here’s is the day of the party, service time-lime…(this time I had no help, well, except for my husband, but no outside or teenage help…but it all worked out well).  It was also the first time Mr. Landon got to come to dinner, and I’m sorry, but a 3 month old really doesn’t care too much about your schedule, it’s ALL about him (Doug, Erin, he was a Prince).

Guest Arrive – 6:00 (or there about, again it’s that whole schedule thing, so remember to be flexible)
First Course – 7:00

5:00 – make the guacamole and order sushi
5:30 – Bring in all the food.  Pick up the Sushi (husband). Cook the meatballs.  Cook the mussels.  Make the soup stock.
6:00 – Set out the appetizers.  Set lower oven to 350.
6:45 – Put the mole in the oven.  Begin the steamer.  Strain the soup stock.
7:00 – Finish soup and serve.  Put the rouladen in the oven.
7:15 – Set tamales to steam
7:30 – Serve Mole and Tamales
7:45 - Serve Intermezzo
8:00 – Fry Spaetzle and Brussels sprouts
8:20 – Serve Main
9:00 - Whip cream for tart and serve dessert

Ok…I guess I need to mention one little mishap and give you a word of caution.  It’s only fair, and I’m not perfect.  I put the mole and the rouladen on the same shelf in the oven…side by side.  When I went to check on them and pulled out the oven rack, well, I guess one side was heavier than the other and…oops…the rack came off the track…so there I am, trying to hold the rack with two heavy pots on them and keep what’s in the pots inside the pots…”Ummmm, could someone come help me?  Please!”.  Husband to the rescue, he grabbed a couple of hot mitts, the pots and we got it all adjusted with minimal spillage.  But I do have to say, cleaning an oven that has spilled mole on it, well, it smells a lot better when it’s not cooking at 500++ degrees.

The Wines...yes, the picture is a little blurry, but we were too.

The Mess

Lindy - Just get er done!

It's so worth it though when you get to entertain good friends.

LindySez: It was all good.  I had so much fun, and the company was terrific.  Cheers!