Tag Archives: menus

Talking About…

Food. Yes, food.I was eight. All my younger siblings and cousins were doing cannonballs off the diving board at mid-point, to be determined, between our residences.

I was with the adult ladies discussing what to do for the next meal and who would prepare what dish.

Years later, Dad said “all you wanted to talk about was food.” “Dad, all you wanted to talk about was work.”

Why food? I met a lady this morning who grew up along the Mississippi River and ate whole hog, shrimp & grits, corn and potatoes and she has kin up north who keep up the hog fest up to this day in the yard.

Food brings people together. It solidifies families and makes new friends. Yes, if someone purposely treats me badly, I can have an acid tongue for a moment but that passes. I would rather bring folks together than tear them apart. Many years ago I and my boss were voted last to be by the punch bowl at the end of an office party. It was my punch bowl! Of 62 people on staff I was the only one with a punch bowl and ladle.

I had to dispense of the punch in the restroom sink, rinse the bowl and trek it home to wash. Why? because it made my extended work family feel like family. When not planning or doing, I feel like a geek at these events because I’m new and don’t know anyone in the room. Having a family atmosphere makes everyone feel comfortable.

Our living complex includes a revolving door. It is, for residents. Someone you met last week may be gone this week. We have pro athletes, doctors, et al. They have parties to reward us for being residents. Staff wear name pins. I’ve asked for cheap name tags for first names because I can’t remember the lady I met once while picking up a package.

Better yet, if you’ve a dog, add that as well. I’m more than likely to remember the dog’s name. “Sandra/Buddy” would work for me.  Dee/Zoe says “Oh, Zoe loves Buddy!”

Dad never understood my preoccupation with food, thought it foolish. I never did. In later years he did learn to cook Italian food and took pleasure in it. I did other things with my life, used my brain to help others instead of brain and hands. My husband was quite thin when I met and married him. His grandmother was worried about him in the hands of another woman. A year later, she saw him and said “I see you’re being fed well.” He can make spaghetti and meatballs but still not a grilled cheese sandwich “Oh, so that’s how you do it!” Really? Cheers! Dee


Men and Menus

It’s my husband’s birthday, well, yesterday. He was flying in and it started snowing and I heard of dire weather conditions. His plane was delayed an hour but then there were other issues with the car.Let’s just say he was two hours late, maybe more.

Every Friday he asks me to go to the gas station up the way and get a certain frozen pizza and a 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. He had to get food at the airport, a burger, so oh, no! His pizza is still in the freezer!

It’s his birthday so I reciprocated in kind. He says, dear, I don’t know what kind of jewelry you like so I go to airport gift shops and get you a refrigerator magnet. Aw, shucks.

I get him his gas station pizza every week, with the DP so decided to get him a birthday gift. Hi dear, I don’t know what kind of jewelry you like so decided to get you some organic beef jerky. He liked that, then crashed.

Our holiday and menus are simple. A roast chicken for Christmas Eve with mashed potato and green beans. Perhaps cereal and fruit for breakfast and and a burger at lunch at home, cooked on the grill.

Christmas Day will be a late festive breakfast, no lunch, then dinner a deux with filet mignon, baked potatoes (loaded, a fillip to the beef jerky birthday treat), roasted heirloom carrots and, sautéed Brussels sprouts with pearl onions and bacon. Dessert is planned and may be made and not eaten. Limoncello panettone as either a trifle or bread pudding. Yes, the panettone is purchased, not hand-made.

The funny thing is that my husband likes to do scientific things in the kitchen. Over the past year or so we’ve hand-cranked fresh pasta, made fluffy pancakes with whipped egg whites, (he reads the recipe and I do the work) so hopefully we’ll redo some  of these and perhaps try another suspect, like the ricer? Root vegetable puree, no rutabagas. We’ve an entire week together! Imagine that! The dog is so happy to be up snoring on the bed together with him, too loud for me until they calm down a bit.

The rest of the week is a potential list of menus he likes, things he is unable to get in restaurants. They’re mostly family favorites. My side of the family, not that there are sides. Time is so precious with his mother around Thanksgiving that I don’t learn the food he loves on a regular day.

M, it’s chicken enchiladas, and your fantastic egg rolls. He’s the birthday boy today, getting in very late, and I’d love to be able to surprise him next week if you give me recipes or hints.

Thank you, family. He really wants egg rolls! The weekend is taken care of but one day next week….. your secrets will be safe with me. Cheers! D



The Bird Arrived

Yes, a capon. I put it right in the freezer, in which I carved space today. I don’t know its weight but it should be between 7-9 lbs. I’ll take it to the frig on the 23rd to thaw.

I’m changing the menu. Too much bread. I remember holiday meals when everything had bread as a component and I don’t want my guests to fill up on carbs.

I’ll start with my marinated Kalamata olives and a Greek/Italian cheese plate with grapes and other fruit my heart goes pitter-pat for at the store.

It’ll be Mom’s basic stuffing, with the liver. No apple-sausage dressing. The gratin stays the same but I’ll add either a sauteed spinach or arugula.

I have to keep the cheddar-bacon biscuits in memory of Jane Grigson. Having never made them before I hope I can do them well and just place them on the table to nosh.

Mashed potatoes are still on the list but I may add additional root vegetables to the puree. Note: do not ever place rutabagas through a ricer. They will break your fingers, wrists and perhaps elbows.

I cannot find mincemeat to save my life, even Amazon can only have it to me by February at the earliest. Interesting I wrote here about it years ago and was contacted by someone who desperately needed mincemeat for tarts to bring to his father’s for Christmas.

Who was that person? My own brother. He’d never seen my blog and was taking mincemeat to Dad’s for Christmas. I ordered two large jars from Amazon as a gift and sent them directly to Dad’s. Oh, I also gave him Mom’s pie dough recipe which my mother-in-law also uses.

What are we doing for dessert this year? In the spirit of the great US of A and Europe I’m creating a fig and ricotta salata mini-turnover, plus a fruit dish, probably with lemon curd (I found some today) and whipped cream or Greek yogurt.

What can I say? This menu is a work in progress. Next year I may even try prime rib and Yorkshire pudding…. Permit me to tackle the capon first. Cheers! Dee


Why are menus so difficult? When I was freezing cold sitting under an arctic weight comforter many years ago with a coat and gloves in my small bedroom, separate thermostat up to 55 degrees for my presence (the others were at 45) I spread out cookbooks and melded tastes and textures and flavors for the perfect meal.

For a couple of years I was a professional “orphan” at Christmas. I was always the 7th to their six, even third to their two. For the past 13 years Thanksgiving is always at my husband’s grandmother’s, whom we both call Nanny. It is a feast of epic proportions and one to be very thankful for one’s participation.

We’ve been by ourselves on Christmas, sometimes being in a new town but we’re back. I love to welcome those with no parents, family halfway around the world, newcomers to town. In no way are they “orphans” but I do love to cook dinner for a few brave souls, usually neighbors, and try to make a menu for them.

These days one must ask allergies and dislikes and one dinner was kicked out immediately. As I age and get more experienced with menus and cooking I must also gauge cooking space in the oven and on the stove.

For those of you who’ve read me for a few years you may remember the capon debacle. Whole Foods, while I love it, will not carry capon. My mother used to make it for every special occasion except Thanksgiving and Christmas and with four kids and a husband, it was pretty much a monthly occasion and her butcher was easily prepared for it.

A few weeks ago I interviewed the head of http://www.roastgoose.com, Jim Schiltz, head of Shiltz Farms. They took on Wapsie Farms’ capon business. Jim, I have to tell you that I will do a goose in the future but right now we’re moving across country in a month and there is much to do and it does not include studying cooking or carving a goose or innovating many leftovers.

I will order a large capon for dinner for six. Make mashed potatoes and probably roasted carrots, steamed green beans. Appetizer undecided. Dessert would have to be cold and kept outside, covered because of no frig space or oven space to make a pie. Or I could make mincemeat tarts in advance. Capon would be stuffed under the skin with butter, s&p and herbs. Stuffed with sausage & apples and toasted wheat bread.

It’s a good feeling so far. I’m now sitting at the computer in 68 degrees next to several cold floor-to-ceiling windows (less than 1/2 degree per year). It reminds me of the old days. For three years we placed all our stuff in storage except for a couple dozen tech books for my husband’s work. I did without cookbooks. If there was anything new I needed ideas for, I looked it up online.

Now my cookbooks are back (at least for now) and to think of something, like Julia Child’s Uncle Hans’ City Scrapple and knowing just where to look it up is a comfort to me. There will never be a total replacement for books, at least while I’m on this earth.

Happy menu planning! My mother went through turkey for years before doing the traditional English feast of prime rib, Yorkshire pudding et al. To each his/her own. Enjoy the holidays. Cheers! Dee

Happy Anniversary, Honey!

Yes, it’s ten years today so hubby arranged for an after work phone conference on a Friday night.

I got him/us two presents. The first was finding and framing the personalized luncheon menu from our wedding. That is beautifully done and has already been presented.

The second was going through storage just now and bringing him our humidifier because it is so dry here he’s awakened to nose bleeds the past two nights. Think of it this way, it’ll save me from washing the sheets and pillowcases every day! Some kind of expensive gift, it only cost me next month’s storage fee so I got to check that off my list as well.

What is planned? Absolutely nothing. We thought of putting it off so I could actually have my first date for Valentines, our own Hallmark moment. Romantics, aren’t we. What is the tenth anniversary gift? I’ll have to look it up.

Perhaps we can renew our vows at our 25th so no-one can disapprove of us eloping in the first place. Maybe cowgirl boots will be designed to fit me by then. There’s no way I’m going to slice off my little toes to fit into Jimmy Choo’s or the cowboy boots they’d have to make for me today.

Thanks for reading, and love to my dear husband who has to put up with me and the dog every day! Best wishes to all family and friends. Raise a glass! Dee


It’ll just be us two this year, me and my husband, plus Zoe the dog of course. She has her dinner, taking up much of my freezer.

When I shopped I forgot that we needed to eat for two days, was thinking long-term. The holiday desk didn’t want to deal with me but sent me right to the butcher’s counter (I’m cooking for two) and they took our order. The produce section was busy and if I go again it’ll be early in the morning, or go to another market.

I did make some awesome meatballs for our spaghetti this evening with ground round, sauteed shallot and garlic (allowed to cool), one egg, seasonings, parmigiana and bread crumbs. Plus parsley. They were baked for 40 minutes then simmered in sauce.

Holiday Menus:

Christmas Eve: Rack of Lamb Persillade; Scalloped Potatoes and Haricots Vert. Yes, lamb with potatoes and green beans.

Christmas Dinner: Filet Mignon with Brussels Sprout and Cauliflower Gratin.

Appetizers? I made some spiced nuts today, also perhaps something based on spinach. Desserts? Tomorrow I’d like to make mincemeat tarts. I don’t do dessert except for ice cream and berries and perhaps a berry coulis.

Wishing you the best of times with your family and friends. Cheers and happy holidays! Dee



There’s a delicious litany of menu faux pas in the NYTimes (Using Menu Psychology to Entice Diners) and much is said in the article and resulting comments, which are closed so I’ll rant here.

The day before Thanksgiving, an upscale bowling alley opened in our chic mountain community. It promised to have upscale food. Now, I’ve been to about five bowling alleys for five bowling experiences in my life. I’ve never eaten a bite at one, and the only thing I’ve considered consuming is a bottle of beer that I see the server take the cap off. I wouldn’t even use their glasses, it was enough that I was wearing their shoes.

I knew they were about to open because the soda trucks started to arrive, then SYSCO, and I knew that nothing in this place would be fresh. It’s all frozen and canned and I know because I see the trucks on my daily dog walks. So for all the SYSCO restaurants who call their food “fresh” that’s not a word that should appear on the menu.

As to menus, when you go real fast food, you know what you’re getting. Middle of the road is all SYSCO. Even upscale may be so. A menu is a definite clue. As to sit-down restaurants with service if there’s a laminated large plastic menu, there are fryers and microwaves “making” your meal. Specials are normally items that will go bad in the walk-in so they need to sell immediately. Notice they’re usually seafood. On these menus, the cook has no way to change anything because of corporate structure.

The menu I like to see is one that is made up daily, on paper that will survive the day’s diners, from what is fresh from the chef’s favorite markets. This is why we eat at home most of the time. I’m the chef and shop for fresh ingredients and cook them simply.

Happy birthday to Jim! His parents always made his birthday separate from Christmas so today a lovely robe arrived, handmade by his mother, no-wale corduroy on one side, a Navajo print on lapels and lining. It’s gorgeous and fits him and is toasty for this cold winter. It’s supposed to be a low of -4 and high of 15 on Christmas Day. It’s a blue that looks great on him. Thanks so much, Margie!

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Dee

Today’s The Day

Jim’s parents are coming out for a visit. A whole week! Normally I like to have a travel book and local magazines handy for guests to peruse and figure out what they’re going to do, but I think this time they’ll be more exhausted from this “vacation” than if they hadn’t taken off work!

There’s the local showcase of homes at which they plan to spend at least two days of the long weekend. We have to go to the Park Silly market on Sunday because my hairdresser’s relatives are coming down from Logan for the farmer’s market bringing heirloom tomatoes and fingerling potatoes that will be featured on my daily menu.

We’d like to send them on the really cool commuter train to several museums and lunch in Ogden one day that Jim’s at work. And so on. This family doesn’t take vacations, much less fly 1,500 miles to get there. When Jim and I first met, his parents had run a dairy for their entire lives. Shortly before we married I was trying to get the lay of the land on family traditions. I asked Jim what his family did for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter. He replied, “milked cows.” So while his father gave up the dairy he still raises cattle, and Margie got 7 goats last year that now number 35, it’s tough to get him off the farm but he’s cut more hay this year than ever before and can take a week off.

I think they’ll love it up here in the mountains. The home tour will provide additional ideas and inspiration for the retirement home they’re planning in Texas, and I’ve also asked for information on touring a nature preserve for local native grasses. They’ve already done research on native grasses in TX and would like to have these as a feature of their new property. Plus they’ve never been to UT and would like to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the copper mine so they’ll be busy. No sitting on the sofa reading civil war books!

It’s cool enough at night that we can cook out and eat on the deck, then come in and start a fire. We’re looking forward to it. I’ll finish cleaning, get a table for dining in (I’m not going to be able to move my desk from the dining table, ran out of time) and we can use the chairs. It’ll work. Awaiting delivery of fruits and veg and steaks from the organic farm so we pretty much have breakfasts and dinners covered. The ribeyes from this farm are excellent and we’ll have some tonight, along with organic russet potatoes with all the fixings and I’ll saute some red and gold cherry tomatoes for color and flavor.

I guess we love new places, new challenges, and enjoy sharing them with family and friends. Writing time may be scarce but I’ll try to keep up. Maybe Jim’s mother can do a post! Cheers, Dee