Scalloped Potatoes, plus mouse 2

Listen folks, I’ve got a huge dog who’s supposed to guard and protect me.  I guess that works since no one’s attacked me.  Then I have a cat.  Cat’s are supposed to keep your feet warm at night and keep mice out of the house.  My last post gave you an idea of how effective that’s been.  We’re now into Day 2 of “The Mouse Incident”.  I really didn’t think I’d be seeing “Jerry” again but as I was getting a cup of coffee in the kitchen, I heard sounds of a scurfuffle in the family room and found this going on around Lola’s toy tub (notice the little ADHD at around 25 second mark):

I figured we’d be done with the mouse in a few minutes so I had my coffee, got on the computer, did a load of laundry… oh ’bout 2 hours later it was finally quiet so I went in to the pantry to get the dust pan.  And found this…

Wait for it….


Moe’s taking a lunch break while his new best friend is trying to get into a bag of birdseed that’s in a canvas bin.  Figuring I’d take care of things, I grabbed the dust pan and broom which scared Jerry who fell into the bin.  Aha!  Got you trapped you lil varmit!  Just as I was about to trap him under the dust pan, he popped out onto Moe’s butt.  Seriously – Moe turned his head with a “just a minute willya – I’m still eating”.  Of course Jerry went back into the baseboard as soon as I got close.  And now we’re into Day 4… but let’s move on to the scalloped potatoes.

Parmesan Scalloped Potatoes

4      Potatoes, large, peeled
2      Very large Vildalia or white onions
5      Tablespoons butter (start with 3 TBL, add more to thicken)
2      Tablespoons flour
2      Cups milk
1/4   Cup cream
1/2   Cup parmesan cheese, grated
Paprika, salt, pepper, chopped parsley

– Thinly slice potatoes and onions then boil together in large pot until just slightly tender.
– Melt butter in saucepan.  Stir in flour with a sprinkling of paprika, pepper, and salt until smooth.  Blend in milk and cream, stirring over medium heat until sauce starts to thicken.  Add parmesan, continue to stir until well blended and smooth.
– In a greased casserole dish, layer 1/2 potato/onions.  Sprinkle a little chopped parsley, then spoon sauce on top.  Add second layer of potato/onions and cover with remaining sauce.
– Bake uncovered at 375° for about 1/2 hour, until top is browned.  Sprinkle with more chopped parsley.

Ask cat how the mousing’s coming along.

Recipe Reviews – My thank you to those who share

I know how wonderful it is to get great, positive, or just fun comments when you post a recipe that you’ve created or enjoy.  I realize many times I’ve said “this look great, can’t wait to try it” (it might take me a while but I really do mean it when I say it) and I really do try to get back to the person’s comments to let them know how it turned out.  But then I think the comment might get lost within all the other comments and other readers might not pick up on the feedback.  This is my thank you to all those who’ve taken the time to post so that we all might enjoy their creativity and of course to let you know how a cooking challenged person does with some of these great ideas. (and yes, I will definitely critique the zucchini, goat cheese, salmon but just have to save that for last).

First up, I made DomesticDiva’s beer can roast chicken yesterday and it was succulent!  I did have to go back to ask her the purpose of stuffing a beer can up the chicken’s butt (moisture from the 1/2 beer in the can creates moisture from within & it does) to explain to my husband about the beer can.  I just made up this idea that the reflection of the beer can helps cook it from within but that’s because I just make stuff up all the time.  I don’t drink beer & didn’t want to waste the 1/2 can of beer so I used it to baste the chicken as it cooked.

Justa’s glazed salmon with broccoli over rice was wonderful.  I love salmon and this glaze was exactly what I was looking for.  The mustard with the maple syrup gave the salmon just the right sweetness with a zing.

And a couple of Susan’s recipes are worthy of praise.  She is really giving me some good stuff to sneak some vegetables past John’s lips and the spinach-cheese bake was both easy and delicious.  I really was shocked by John’s reaction on this one since I thought he’d say “good but could you leave out the spinach next time”.  It also makes up plenty for leftover lunch snacks.

And finally, the recipe I’ve been tormenting Susan for… zucchini pancakes with goat cheese & smoked salmon – from Inner Ina.  This one deserves a little more comment on my part.  First I did add the red onion (I like onion & thought it added a nice flavor) and I also used Susan’s suggestion of putting in a dash of nutmeg.  But there are a couple of things that I would suggest in the directions.

First:  the part where it says “preheat oven to 300°.  I would add:
**BEFORE preheating oven to 300° look inside oven to see if you have stashed a tray of breadcrumbs to dry.  Do not forget that you have preheated oven until you are ready to start pancakes.

Next I would suggest a little more emphasis on:  “When the butter is hot but not smoking, lower the heat to medium-low“.  I would perhaps put this in red and add the following warning:  “Once you have started melting the butter, do not walk away to chat with your daughter on the phone while playing a couple games of solitaire.  If you chose to ignore this warning, then open the windows, grab a large bath towel & start waving it around under the smoke alarms to clear them. Spray judicious amounts of air freshener before your husband gets home & says “what the hell stinks!”.  But truly, I know some people might not be fans of goat cheese or smoked salmon, however I am and this was really an outstanding recipe that I will definitely make again.  Even John agreed that he would definitely like to see them repeated even after I told him the ‘green stuff’ was zucchini.  I found that the recipe would be perfect for 2 people, neither of us could quite finish the 3rd pancake we each had.

My thanks to all of you who take the time and effort to share your cooking experiences with us and to let you know that people really do read and appreciate your blogs.  On the agenda for this week is something I’ve never made from scratch:  Danny’s Mac & Cheese.  Just a note – I plan to add lots & lots of bacon to this, just because.

Basic No Fail Risotto

Whoa… breaking news… after this go check out Susan’s zucchini pancake w/salmon & goat cheese.  Yeah!

I thought I had the risotto recipe already out there – to go with the Old Bay Shrimp dish but realized it never made it this far.

I know there are tons of risotto recipes available & I notice a few comments & questions about getting the right consistency of the rice.  Having experimented a little lot,I think the trick is getting the temperature just right.  If the temp is too low, then the rice sits in the broth for too long & gets mooshy, too high a temp & everyone’s discreetly spitting little rice b-b’s into their palm.  So I’m just saying Niki, maybe next time cook it just a twitch above medium.  It should look about like this:


1          Can (14.5 oz) chicken broth
3          TBL butter
1          Cup chopped white onion
3          Cloves minced garlic
3/4       Cup Arborio rice
½         Cup vermouth or dry white wine
½         Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½         Teas salt
¼         Teas freshly ground black pepper

–  In medium saucepan, bring broth to a simmer.  Cover broth & keep warm over low heat.

–  In a large skillet, melt 3 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat (actually just a twitch above medium).  Add the onion and sauté until soft & translucent, but not brown.  Add garlic for just a minute; be sure that it doesn’t burn.  Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter.  Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated.  Add 1 ½ ladle of  broth and stir until it’s almost completely absorbed.  Continue cooking rice, adding the broth 1 ladle at a time, stirring, allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20-30 minutes total.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese

–  You can add anything to basic risotto, vegetables such as peas, seafood, herbs & other seasonings or mushrooms.  But you usually don’t want these ingredients to cook for 30 minutes with the rice, or they become overcooked.  Instead add these ingredients with the final addition of broth.

Shrimp, Beer & Old Spice…I mean Old Bay

We decided to push things a little this weekend regarding John’s potential shellfish allergy.  We do live close to a hospital and the allergy hasn’t been confirmed; plus it seems like I’ve got a lot of recipes that involve shrimp, lobster, crab… but as I make up the week’s menu I’ll ask John “how about… oh wait, no that’s shellfish you’d better not”.  He couldn’t take it anymore so we agreed on this unbelievable shrimp recipe that goes very well with basic risotto. The  rule was:  just eat a little and if you break out into that rash again and start gasping, I’ll just shoot you with my epi-pen.  I figured we’d given the shellfish a break for a couple of weeks and maybe in small portions it would be fine (he was fine so maybe the rash was caused by the IRS after all).  What makes this such an easy dish to prepare is that you can just dump everything into a big pot minus the shrimp while you get the risotto or pasta ready.


1     Bottle of beer (your preference)
2     Teaspoons salt
4     Bay leaves
1     Tablespoon thyme – or a bunch of fresh sprigs
6     Cloves garlic – peeled & smooshed
1     Tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
2-3  Lemons – quartered
1     Lb. jumbo shrimp – rinsed & peeled

Fill a large pot with about 1 1/2 quarts water.  Dump a beer in then add salt, bay leaves, thyme, garlic and Old Bay Seasoning.  Squeeze the lemon juice then toss in the quarters.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes for flavors to combine then add shrimp for about 3 minutes, just until they’re pink.  Can be served with fettuccine but I like it best with basic risotto (which we had with broccoli).

Seconds weren’t an option this time for John but he enjoyed it enough to at least wish for more.

The Potato Pancakes Incident

After blasting back in time looking for June Cleaver pictures, I happened upon a website that runs full episodes of Leave it to Beaver.  What a hoot!  Does anybody remember that boat that Ward drove and what was it?

57 ford – ward cleaver

Anyway, the 50’s reminded me of my mother who, like June without the pearls,  was a stay at home Mom until I was in high school.  Most of her cooking was basic without recipes although I do remember her referring to her Betty Crocker and Fanny Farmer cookbooks from time to time especially when the natives got restless and complained about eating “the same old thing”.  Not my father though, he was smart enough to keep his head down and eat whatever was served as long as it didn’t have pineapple.  Having been stationed in Hawaii during the war, I guess he had his lifetime limit of pineapple.  There was a routine to my mother’s menu planning – chicken dinner on Sunday, spaghetti & meatballs on Wednesday although I don’t think that was the official Prince Spaghetti “Anthony” day, and of course fish on Friday.  I guess we complained enough so that she started to go through her Good Housekeeping and Ladies Home Journal magazines for new ideas.

One inspiration was potato pancakes.  My mother was a good cook so I don’t think the problem was that she didn’t follow the recipe, just that we perhaps hadn’t developed a taste for potato pancakes or maybe it was the recipe.  Even my father had a hard time choking down those pancakes although he was smart enough to shut up about it.  My 2 sisters and I however were obnoxiously vocal about them to the point where my mother grabbed everyone’s plates & tossed the food into the garbage and went storming out of the kitchen.  Not given to histrionics, this gave us the big eyeballs.

Later that night we heard the garbage can rattling.  Taking a peak out there we saw that a couple of raccoons had pried off the lid and pulled out the potato pancakes.

Harry's masked moochers

ok, I tried to add a Frisbee - it's not really his

They were so cute so we were all crowded around watching through the window when one of them sat up with a pancake in his little humanoid hands and took a bite.  One bite.  Then he took that potato pancake and sent it about 20′ down the driveway like a frisbee.  Well of course that just cracked all of up saying “see – even the raccoon won’t eat those things!”  Funny that is until my mother went storming back to the bedroom slamming the door.

I obviously don’t have pictures of the potato pancake/frisbee incident but my good friend Harry was able to provide me with photos of his regular masked moochers.  The first photo is a family photo enjoying cat food and since he hasn’t put out any potato pancakes for them, they come back year after year with their new babies.

Since I’ve matured a lot in the food trying department, I would really like to hear from any of you who have a good potato pancake recipe (or link to one they know is the real deal) to try out.  Anyone?  Potato pancake recipes?  And what do you use for garnishes – maybe that was the problem, we didn’t have anything to put on them.

Pork Chops-cheap, easy, so June Cleaver

» June CleaverRemember June Cleaver?  I never missed a Leave it to Beaver episode & coveted June’s pearls.

For those of you who either don’t remember (you probably don’t recall The Honeymooners, Bonanza or I’ve Got a Secret either) or if your parents never educated you about “the good programs they used to have”, June Cleaver was the perfect stay at home mother.  Her freshly pressed poufy skirt dresses never had a spot on them (no Tide Stain Sticks for June) and she always wore her trademark string of pearls. If she went out of the house she wore white gloves, high heels and her make-up and hair were perfection.  When she was in the house she added a clean 1/2 apron & ditched the gloves.  She never missed greeting her loving husband Ward with a kiss and marching orders to “go talk to the Beaver”.  We never really knew what June did all day but it probably included playing bridge (can’t golf in heels) and sucking down a few Tom Collins’ before getting dinner on the table promptly at 5:00.   Other than the famous brussel sprouts incident with “the Beaver” I don’t think we ever knew what the family really ate but I do know that June didn’t have the internet, food shows with chefs throwing things around a kitchen, or hundreds of food blogs so I’m only guessing she put what my mother put on the table – meat, potatoes, vegetable, dessert, maybe a Jello mold to be creative & festive.

So what I’m getting around to is this… not every meal needs to be gourmet or even clever- it doesn’t even need to have a name! Some days I just don’t want to chase down ingredients then get into the mincing, dicing, deglazing, reglazing, sauteing… well you get my drift.  Therefore, I present to you the first in my June Cleaver recipe series.  I think I remember back in the 50’s that Campbell’s soup ran some sort of promotion/contest for recipes using good ol’ Campbell’s Soup.  So if you’re hoping for something upscale and time consuming, this one won’t be it and you can get out the food processor.  But maybe I’m expected to come up with a name for this dish – they all seem to have  a name.  How about Pork Chops with Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup with onion and lemon?  Or, if any of you would like to make this into a contest, send me your creative name ideas and I’ll send you a can of Campbell’s soup.  Seriously, this is very cheap, easy & the pork chops are very tender if you just leave them alone in a baking dish for eh… a long time.

– Sprinkle bone-in pork chops with salt & pepper (you can brown them in a skillet if you feel energetic).  Put in baking dish.
– Empty a can of Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup in a bowl, mix in a can full of water – stir then pour over the pork chops.”
– Thickly slice large white onions & put on top of chops
– Top with slices of lemons
Bake, covered at 350°, 375°, or even 400° for at least 45 minutes -longer makes them juicier.  Oh, and when you serve this remember to wear your pearls… seriously, I really loved June’s pearls.

Mussels in buttery, garlic sauce

Alas, this could very well be my last shellfish recipe.  I love lobster, clams, mussels, crab… but last week I made my lobster risotto and my husband got this weird rash.  Huh, maybe poison ivy although I couldn’t figure where he’d pick that up since he’s either been in the office or swearing at the computer doing taxes.  But the rash went away and I figured the IRS can give anyone a rash.  Friday was Yama Zakura (best sushi place ever, in Northboro, MA) take-out night and we both got their unbelievable Lobster Bombs. Oh are they gooood.  Until John started itching again.  Hmmm, maybe just a flair up of the IRS rash and I suggested smearing that wasabi gunk on his arms.  Then I noticed that Hannaford had mussels on sale & I’ve been wanting to try Tyler Florence’s Creamy Garlicky Mussels recipe. After John’s rash came back during dinner, I’m going to go with a newly developed shellfish allergy.  But I have to tell you, this recipe is worth any rash you might get.  Even if you don’t care for mussels, soaking fresh French bread in the butter garlic sauce is well worth it.


This is a potentially hazardous recipe in the wrong hands (like mine).  I think I’ve mentioned that a successful meal for me is one where the smoke alarm doesn’t go off & I don’t end up at the ER getting stitches.  As Mrs. Tewksbury, my old Home Ec teacher always said “read through the entire recipe before you start”.  Yeah, yeah, yeah… I glanced at the ingredients, had them all and figured I was good to go.  Then I got to the final step of making the cream sauce & ol’ Tyler says to “buzz the liquid” with an immersion blender!  Huh?  Since I don’t know what an immersion blender is (although I would guess it’s something you could take in the bathtub to make foamy bubbles), I figured out that I didn’t have one of those.  No problem though…

The hint was the word blender.  But that was in the pantry.  Right next to the stove though, is the mixer.  I didn’t want the mussels to get cold so I just dumped the liquid into the mixer & just like Tyler says “put the meat from 10 mussels in the liquid & buzzed“.  Next thing I know, I got hit between the eyes with a mussel blob – then as all the mussels started hitting the beaters I had a tsunami of broth and mussels spraying all over me, the counters, walls… was like being in a paintball fight.  Man those little bastards can fly!

Using the cookbook as a shield I finally got the mixer turned off, rescued enough broth for dipping & we did finally get to eat but you need to know that if you don’t get all the mussels out of your hair before they dry, it’s like trying to get Gorilla Glue out and may require cutting.  I guess if you don’t have an immersion blender, then a regular blender should do – anything to keep these little buggers confined.  That said, the mussels were great over fettuccine and the garlic dipping sauce was awesome.  So I’ve warned you – read the instructions & have the blender handy.

Creamy Garlicky Mussels

4     lbs. mussels
4     TBL butter
2     TBL olive oil
2     Cloves minced garlic
4     Sprigs fresh thyme
1/2  Lemon, thinly sliced
3/4  Cup dry white wine
1/2  Cup chicken broth

– Scrub mussels under running water, discarding any with broken shells or that remain open after running under water (you can also remove any that are closed after cooking).  Melt 2 TBL butter with olive oil over medium heat in a large pot.  Add garlic, thyme, and lemon slices for about 5 minutes.  Add the mussels, stirring to coat with flavorings.  Add wine, then chicken broth; cover and steam for 10-12 minutes until the mussels have opened.

– Remove mussels, discarding any that haven’t opened.  Take the meat from 10-12 of the mussels and return to the pot with the remaining 2 TBL of butter.  Using an immersion blender (if you too are without an immersion blender, then put the meat & liquid into a regular blender) and buzz the liquid until the sauce thickens and becomes creamy.

– I served this with fettuccine, grated parmesan, and warm slices of French bread.