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Posts Tagged ‘valentine’s day’

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Valentine’s Day has already eluded me this month. For the first time since starting this blog I had no contribution. What a busy time these past few months have been. My beloved recipes and wonderful new pans from Santa have spent their time gathering dust in the cupboard. Mr. Rick, admittedly somewhat spoiled, has had a rare steady diet of take-out and hastily prepared meals. If a minute did come my way, I couldn’t seem to summon the energy to do much with it but take a deep breath and press forward. A friend told me recently “you need to slow down, girl”. Really? Believe me I would love nothing better than to hand the yoke to someone else and see the rows continue to form in the field. Unfortunately, most of my friends are involved in managing their own lives and don’t have a strong interest in taking on the responsibilities in mine as well. Shame that.

When a break shows up, I often turn on the television for a little diversion. Switching channels there is the political lunacy pervading the airways lately or an update on who’s been given the latest rose on The Bachelor. Sometimes while watching the news I feel like the Cheshire Cat peering down from a tree limb observing the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in full maniacal swing.

Since this is the month of l’amour, toujours, l’amour let’s pause for a moment to ponder The Bachelor as well as its female counterpart. What can it be, I can’t help asking, people find so riveting about these shows? Explain this phenomenon to me if you will. The few times I have tuned in, all the hoopla accompanying each episode’s conclusion continues to elude me. For the most part, once the cameras are turned off it doesn’t appear many of these couples continue forward together.Should they actually make it to the altar they don’t seem to last long after arriving there. Six couples remain intact after 30 seasons of both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. Not great odds to my mind. Poor odds aside, everyone seems to be lapping up each season like a litter of thirsty kittens hovering over a bowl of warm milk. Amazing.

Truly we humans are besotted by the idea of true love. Beloved fairy tales such as Snow White and Cinderella fuel the desire for finding Prince Charming in fledgling princesses before they even enter elementary school.  Even I (long past the princess phase) tuned in to watch the most recent version of Cinderella over the weekend only to find myself as captivated by the story line as when sporting Mary Jane’s.

Love, perhaps, is the last great embodiment of optimism. Statistics indicating the likelihood nearly half the couples coming together will not remain so, human beings continue to engage in the avid pursuit of the perfect mate. Once a desirable partner has been culled from the herd they stand before an officiate and exchange vows often including “til death do us part”.  Perhaps the vows should be amended to read “til do us part”?  All this effort is expended in the hope of sharing a life with one’s soul mate through the end of  time.

Yet, when you watch an affectionate elderly couple sitting comfortably side by side on a park bench exchanging a word or sharing a laugh it makes your heart hopeful. Living alone was perhaps not the original plan, though many do so successfully either by choice or happenstance. Those of us in the animal kingdom seem to be instinctively paired. Birds such as swans, turtle doves and the bald eagles choose one mate to create a nest with one other for life. A friend of mine had a lovebird by the name of Wilbur. Wilbur was a happy little soul who sang prettily from his cage each day to his lovely bride. Rarely did you see him without his mate at his side. They preened and groomed one another and occasionally produced an egg as a symbol of their union. One day the lady bird was found lying still on the floor of the cage with her faithful Wilbur standing at her side. Wilbur stopped singing, choosing instead to sit sadly on his perch. In an effort to console him a new mate was purchased and placed in the cage. Wilbur eventually began to sing again but never with the same exuberance. The mate, though accepted, was never given the attention the original female enjoyed nor did she ever produce an egg. Even birds can suffer a broken heart it would appear.

Often I ponder whether we are meant to be coupled as a means to perpetuate life, but are not naturally wired to be monogamous beings. This is a deep subject fraught with potholes so for today I will enjoy the lovely relationship I share and be happy to have it. No one can predict what is to come around the corner so it wise to enjoy fully day you find yourself in. Hope it’s a happy one.

This dish will definitely put a smile on your face. I will say if you’re looking for something to “throw together” this is not the recipe for you.  That being said, it makes a lot so I freeze what’s left over for another day when I don’t have the time to devote to it.

Rishta bi Betingan (Pasta and Eggplant)

2 eggplants sliced 1/2″ thick
Salt
Vegetable oil for frying
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes with juice
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 15 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles with juice
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 lb. rigitoni cooked and drained
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Slice eggplant and place in large deep dish. Cover with water for 30 minutes turning once. (You may have to do this in batches). Rinse well in colander and pat dry.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil until hot in large skillet. Working in batches cook until deep golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook 6 mins. until translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 min. until fragrant. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices to pan. Bring to boil. Add eggplant breaking up slightly as you stir it into sauce. Reduce heat to simmer and continue cooking for 10 mins.

Spray bottom of 9 x 13″ pan. Spread small amount on sauce on bottom. Top with one half of the rigitoni. Top with 2/3 of the sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese. Top with another layer of noodles and finish with remaining sauce. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese on top. Seal tightly with tin foil.

Bake for 45 mins. or until bubbly. Yum.

Serves 6-8

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This being Valentine’s Day, my mind has turned to romance. I struggle with choosing gifts for my other half.  I try to be creative. Most of them end up in our “ghosts of presents past” section at our garage sales. It is after all, at least according to Hallmark, the day to show the object of our affection how deep the roots of our love are buried.  As to dinner, we’re having lobster tails with drawn butter, twice baked potatoes, and fresh asparagus with lemony hollandaise sauce.  Fortunately our lobsters will have met their maker long before they grace our table.  This eliminates the extra step of having to plunge them in the pot of boiling while apologizing profusely to their families. I hate that part.

This brings to mind Valentine’s celebrations gone by.  One year when I was living in the Bay Area my husband took the reins, and with Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday that year, prepaid for a glorious “weekend romantic getaway for two” in San Francisco. It was to be a total surprise, and in the end it certainly was. The package was to include two nights at a top rated hotel, dinner overlooking the city at a four star restaurant, plus delicious spoiling at the hotel spa.  In addition, he’d ordered twenty-four long-stemmed lilac roses to be delivered to the room,  and purchased tickets to see Beach Blanket Babylon on Saturday night, one of my favorite shows.  Not being one to keep a tight secret, for once his lips were sealed tighter than Joan River’s face.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my mother-in-law contacted me. It seemed my husband’s youngest brother was flying in from Steamboat Springs, Colorado for several weeks.  He and my husband hadn’t seen each other in a long time so she was hoping we could drive down to L.A. for a quick visit or visa versa.   For me visa versa was better and not having a gift in place yet for my husband I suggested surprising him with them as his gift and arranging an intimate dinner party.  Cupid had drawn his arrow but his aim was slightly off to the right.

When my husband was out of the house I began inviting people to the party.  Surprisingly, as it was on Valentine’s Day itself, thirty four accepted.  The guest list in place, I made reservations for his family at a local hotel and booked their flights.  As time was running short I decided to arrange for a caterer to provide the food and enlisted the son of a friend who worked private parties to barkeep.  I was giddy with power at how well things were coming together.  Going all out, I called a local florist and arranged for a lovely arrangement for the table in reds and pinks.  When my husband was out of the house, I sneaked in party plates and hid the desserts in the back of the outside refrigerator.  I thought I was slicker than oil on a vinyl floor.

I suggested we stay home for the weekend and snickering behind the knowledge of the spa vacation, my husband happily nodded his head as if he was his own bobble head doll.  It reminds me, now that I think of it,  of the story “The Gift of the Magi” by O’Henry. The story wraps around a married couple each having only one valued possession, the wife her lovely long hair and the husband his father’s pocket watch.  For Christmas she sells her hair to buy a watch fob for him and, in turn, he sells his father’s watch for a comb for her hair.  Doomed, simply doomed to be bald and have no idea what time it is.

I made plans to get off early from work on Friday which played perfectly into my husband’s surprise.  He had arranged weekend plans for the children. As I knew his mother and brother would want to see the children, swearing them to secrecy I switched their plans to the following weekend. Leaving work on Friday at noon I headed straight for the airport. I dropped his brother and mother off at their hotel with a promise to return before my husband got home around 6:00.  I had the appetizers prepped, and the wine chilling when I gathered them in the lobby.  At a little after six o’clock my husband’s car pulled into the driveway.  I had stashed his family and the kids behind the door.

All smiles he walked in the kitchen and on cue the door was pushed back and they yelled surprise.  His smile sank faster than the Titanic, and instead of jubilation his expression looked more like I’d just told him someone had run over the dog.  Confused by his reaction I began talking as though I’d been offered ten dollars for every vowel I uttered.  After a pregnant pause the size of an elephant’s gestation hugs were exchanged and the bottle of champagne he’d been hiding behind his back was opened and poured.

Unable to speak privately to my husband I felt like I’d opened the book in the middle and completely missed the plot.  Periodically I’d catch my husband’s eye and he’d just shrug.  What, WHAT, are you saying?  Thoroughly exasperated I headed toward the bedroom to change out of my work clothes.  On the bed was a suitcase with a card with my name on it and a large manilla envelope.  Inside I found everything about the planned weekend plus a hundred-dollar bill to buy something special to wear while in San Francisco.  Really?  I mean REALLY!  Get me a gun, I’m putting those four down and we’re hitting the road.  OMG.

I went in and smiled at him.  This time I shrugged, and with no choice but to press forward we were both on the same page. What an expensive and exasperating weekend.  In the end it was fun, but I found myself daydreaming of soft spa slippers and fine showers of apricot aroma therapy.  Sigh.

Meat loaf is right up there on my lists of favorite foods.  Made this last night and there is a piece the size of a piece of notebook paper left over.  Yummy.

Meat Loaf

2 lbs. ground chuck
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 onion, chopped fine
1/4 cup mushrooms, chopped fine
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped fine
3 slices white bread, crusts removed, torn into chunks by hand
1/4 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt

Break bread with fingertips and soak in milk for ten minutes. In large bowl combine meat, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, eggs, and 1 1/2 cups of tomato pepper relish and seasonings. Squeeze the excess milk out of the bread and add to bowl. Using your fingertips incorporate all the ingredients until well mixed.

Form a long loaf on the center of a baking sheet. Ice with 1/2 cup of the tomato pepper relish reserving the rest.

Place in 375 degree oven for 1 1/2 hrs. Let cool for 8 mins. before slicing.
Serve with remainder of tomato pepper relish.

Tomato Relish
1 Tbsp. EV olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cups mushrooms, finely diced
2 bay leaves
1 red pepper, chopped fine
1 green pepper, chopped fine
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped fine
1/4 cup parsley flakes
2 1/2 cups ketchup
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper and
Salt to taste

In large skillet heat olive oil. Add onion, peppers, mushrooms and bay leaves and saute until vegetables are tender, about 5 mins. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 10 mins. Cool slightly if using immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Reheat portion to be served with meatloaf.

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