24 October 2010

Stay home vacation = food, chores, grandkids

I took a week off from working at the office. Notice how careful I was about stating that? I did check e-mails from home on most of the days. I did do one business dinner on Thursday. I did check my voice messages twice. But for the most part, it was a restorative break from the office routine.

Which is not to say that I wasn’t busy. Um … that is to say I still had a busy week. I washed windows. I raked leaves. I bought jewelry for my wife. I picked up two new suits at SFA. I wrote a blog post. Well, you get the picture. I did a lot of stuff, just not at the office.

A lot of the stuff I did was food related. On Monday night, we had a great dinner at Barbette. That was my last blog post. Click here to read it. One night I cooked bay scallops in a lime-butter sauce and served it on basmati rice. It was good. On Thursday (before leaving for the business dinner), I baked two batches of bread – challah for Friday night dinner with our grandkids (and their parents) and French bread for our planned Saturday night dinner party (more to come).

On Friday, I had a cupcake factory with my granddaughter. We mixed up a batch of Betty Crocker’s Best Chocolate Cake (from the Betty Crocker Cookbook that I bought when I first started cooking for myself. I guess now you don’t need the cookbook since it appears you can find all the recipes online anyway.) Here’s the cake recipe we made. We spooned the batter into cupcake papers and baked them until done rather than making layer cake. Instead of Betty’s fudge frosting, we made a butter cream frosting from Land O'Lakes. Click here for that recipe. You can see from the photo that we made different colors frosting for decorating the cupcakes. The pink frosting was vanilla. The green frosting was mint (substituting mint extract for the vanilla). The yellow frosting was lemon (substituting lemon extract for the vanilla). Of course the color was just regular food color.

For dinner on Friday, I made braised boneless short ribs with dates and aromatic spices. It’s a recipe I’ve had on file for so long, I don’t know when I first saved it. I’m pretty sure it’s from a newspaper food page. My guess is either New York Times, Washington Post, or Florida Sun-Sentinel. Over the years, I’ve saved a lot of recipes from those papers. I served it with mashed potatoes, and Linda made a cabbage and apple salad. For dessert we had cupcakes (what else?)

On Saturday, we had a group of friends for an Italian Harvest Dinner. For appetizers, we served olives, cheese & crackers, and Sweet Pea Crostini. The Sweet Pea Crostini is a recipe that I’ve served often in the past year. It’s great.

We started with Ligurian Minestrone. It’s a recipe from the Boston Globe that I’ve had on file since our daughter lived in Boston in 2003. Next we served two recipes from La Cucina Italiana. It’s a magazine that I pick up at the airport from time to time. Fabulous recipes and great articles about Italian food and wine. Next we served Penne e ceci and Insalata di Gamberi e Finocchi con le Prugne. The penne featured a sauce made from pureed chickpeas with herbs. The recipe calls for serving it with fish; I used small cubes of mozzarella cheese instead. The salad consisted of shrimp on a bed of greens with sautéed fennel and prunes. (When we shopped for prunes, we discovered that they’re now called ‘dried plums’ in the United States.)

For dessert, I served the Lake Garda Apple Cake recipe that I’ve written about before.

It was a fun week.

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