Saturday, March 21, 2015

Seafood and Eat Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Friday, Day 13 - I think I ran out of reasons to whine, after yesterday's let-me-beat-up-on-myself post. I just have one doctor phone call to make today, and then I can concentrate on meatloaf.  Unfortunately, I am not going to make it to the flash dance mob for my friend Donna.  It's a secret (or it was - I won't publish this until it is over), and something to cheer her up after her damn cancer fell out of remission.  But right now, I cannot deal with crowds, and do not want to chance having a panic attack while out in Celebration (in my mind, a really stupid name for a town. It should have been named Stepford) which is a good 10 miles from home.

Right now I am having a grand inner debate over whether or not I should include a sautéed onion in the cheese sauce.  That's apparently the highest level of cogitation I am capable of engaging in.

I did decide, and the onion is in there, and the dish is finished, and it is good.  Feel free to add another half cup of shrimp, I think it could use it.

Seafood and Eat Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

1 - 16 oz. bag frozen cauliflower, cooked according to package directions, substituting seafood stock for the water
1/2 cup frozen green peas, defrosted in hot water
1 1/2 cups cooked, frozen salad shrimp, defrosted according to cold water method on package
1 - 4 oz. tub crumbled feta cheese
1 - 12 oz. box Barilla Casarecce pasta, cooked 2 minutes less than package directions (7-8 minutes)
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Combine the drained cauliflower, green peas, and shrimp in an aluminum baking dish.  Add the feta cheese and toss gently.  Drain the cooked pasta and add it to baking dish.  Toss gently with the other ingredients.  Sprinkle on the grated Pecorino Romano and toss again.  Set aside.

Now prepare the sauce:

4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups whole milk
kosher salt
white pepper
rubbed sage
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 cup shredded Sargento Four State Cheddar
1 cup shredded Sargento Extra Sharp Cheddar
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Combine these three cheeses and set aside.  In a saucepan, melt the butter, then add the onion and garlic. Cook just until the onion is getting soft and a touch translucent.  Now add the flour and whisk for a minute, or until the flour no longer has a "raw" smell. (Congratulations, you just made an onion roux, or what my great-grandmother-of-blessed-memory would call an einbrenne).  Pour in the milk and continue to whisk over medium high heat until the white sauce bubbles and thickens.  Take it off the heat and add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and sage, and stir in the Dijon mustard. Stir in 2 cups of the combined cheeses until the sauce is melted and smooth.  Pour the cheese sauce over the contents of the baking dish, and carefully fold the sauce in.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes.

It was Romeo's turn to accompany me on my walk, and we had a fine time. He would not get into the stroller out of the gate, but about a half mile into our stroll, he stopped, looked at me with tired eyes, and let me place him in the seat.  We walked further than usual, passing the traffic circle and along the walkway of the older section of the lakefront, where Muscovy ducks rule.  It seemed to help that I had the stroller to lean on, even slightly, and I did not suffer as I had the day before.  It may also have
helped that I wore somewhat better shoes.

I got quite a bit more photos, with and without Romeo.  I expect there will be even more pretty flowers now that we are officially out of winter and into spring.  At least here in Florida ... it was snowing in Brooklyn, according to a video posted by my cousin.  I wonder what happened to the crocuses?  I love the crocuses in Brooklyn.  I also love azaleas and lilacs, neither of which grows well in Florida.   Oh geez, I've been bitching about those lilacs for almost 24 years.  Time to move on.

By the way, the flash dance mob took place, and it was just what Donna needed to cheer her up.  She's a fighter, that girl - after all, she's Sicilian - and I have no doubt she will kick that frakking cancer in the butt yet again.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Soul and Inspiration, Part II - Chicken Scandia on a bed of grilled vegetables and Israeli couscous

Thursday, Day 12 - Carryover from yesterday's ear worm:

Baby, you're my soul and my heart's inspiration
You're all I've got to get me by
You're my soul and my heart's inspiration
Without you, baby, what good am I?

I never had much goin'
But at least I had you
How can you walk out knowin'
I ain't got nothin' left if you do

Yeah, inspiration was in short supply yesterday as I wandered aimlessly through Publix.  I finally came up with some ideas, one for chicken and one for ground beef.  Today is Chicken Day, which should make the Chick-fil-la cows happy, at least in the short term.  Boneless, skinless chicken breasts were on sale, so I picked up two packages - three breasts and about a pound and three-quarters each.  Recipe to follow.

Today has been tough; pain in lower back and back of neck, and a lot of angst.  Part of me is angry, and another part is ridden with guilt.  I got sick, and over time, it made it difficult for me to do the quality of work people had come to expect of me. That wasn't my fault, but I feel like giving in to the pain was.  I should have been stronger, I could have been tougher. Never mind the brain fog which stole my ability to remember, to calculate, to advocate.  Set aside the stress of a job where one wrong move could cost a child his life.  Don't mention the judicial transition and the effect it has had.

I don't look sick, but I feel like s**t.  I can't eat like normal people.  I cannot swallow solid food, no matter how small I cut it or how thoroughly I chew it. I am tired of throwing up.

They say I have a lump on my breast.  Well, I can't find the damn thing. Am I in denial?

I feel overwhelmingly guilty for the stress my illness is causing other people.  I am angry at the guilt I feel.  I am tired of whining.

And now to the better part of the day ...

I am trying to follow through on my commitment to walk each day. Today was difficult, and after a quarter mile I almost turned around and headed home.  My back hurt like holy hell, and each step impacted my frail little body as powerfully as if I had been running the New York Marathon.

I was armed with my coffee, a power bar, and my music, and so I pushed on.  And on.  Until I could find just the right tree to sit under while enjoying the views from Lakefront Park.  I never tire of snapping photos at Lake Toho, and today I got a right bunch of beauties:

Only in Florida do we let our children play in the wading pool with alligators and wild boar.

Inspired by my friend Carrie I took some photos of flora, both at the park and at home.

Newly-planted hibiscus.  Thank you James and Linda!

Always, so peaceful.

The peaceful beauty of the lake and its park, along with the knowledge of plenty of shaded spots in which to sit and  rest kept me moving.  And I have to keep moving, for my physical and emotional health.  Have to keep cooking for the same reasons.

Chicken Scandia with Grilled Vegetables and Israeli Couscous

1 - 18 oz. jar Heinz Classic Chicken Gravy
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons dried dill weed

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
extra virgin olive oil
lemon pepper
garlic salt

1 - 14 oz. bag  Birdseye Recipe Ready Grilling Blend (Zucchini, Yellow Squash, Red Onion & Red Pepper
extra virgin olive oil
granulated garlic, salt, black pepper

Israeli couscous for 6 people, cooked according to package directions
black pepper
dried dill weed

This is a very easy dish, and you can skip the grilled vegetables and couscous if you want to make it easier.  Serving it on the bed of couscous and vegetables is a very pretty presentation, and constitutes a full meal, but you can go with any side dish you like.  I prepared the chicken and vegetables on the Cuisinart Griddler, but you can cook the seasoned chicken in the oven, under the broiler, or in a nonstick skillet.  The vegetables can be cooked according to package directions.

Drizzle the chicken with the olive oil and season with the lemon pepper and garlic pepper, to taste.  Set aside while you heat the griddler to high. Grill the chicken with the lid closed, for 10 to 15 minutes or until no pink remains in the center of the breast.  I had to do this in two batches.  Set aside the cooked chicken to rest, using a baking dish or aluminum pan.

Cut open the top of the bag of vegetables.  Drizzle in a little oil, and holding the bag closed, shake to spread the oil around the vegetables.  Repeat with the seasoning.  Open the griddler so it lies flat, and grill the vegetables until they are softened and have color on both sides.  Remove the cooked vegetables from the grill.

Yes, fellow MOTs, that is couscous for Passover.  It was an accident. Unless it is Passover, I highly recommend you make sure to buy the real stuff.

Prepare the couscous according to package directions.  Drain well.  Spread the cooked and drained couscous out on the bottom of an aluminum baking pan.  Sprinkle with the seasonings, and stir the couscous to distribute them.  Place the grilled vegetables on top of the couscous.

Cut each chicken breast into 6 diagonal slices, and place them on top of the vegetables.  Do not discard the natural juices in the pan; you are going to add them to the sauce.

Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small saucepan.  Stir in the reserved natural juices from the chicken.  Heat on low, stirring fairly constantly, until the sauce is heated through completely.  Watch carefully that the sauce doesn't break into a full boil, as this would cause the sour cream to curdle.  Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

I used all of the sauce in this pan, so that it would also drip down over the vegetables and couscous, but you can use the extra sauce as you see fit - over noodles, to be served on the side, or in a gravy boat, to be ladled over mashed potatoes.