Thursday, December 3, 2020



Hello friends!  I'm trying to stay on top of my blogging.  I am such a procrastinator and I wholeheartedly admit it.  And I do not like commitments so I wait until the eleventh hour.  This got me in some hot water a few weeks ago when my December newspaper article deadline arrived and I found that the regular old way I added photos to my blog was now totally undoable.  I still don't remember how I did it, but I do know my editor was frothing at the mouth over my excuses and delays in going to press on time.  And I never had the time to share all I wanted to during this festive time.  So---for this post I finally figured out that I could drag photos from my downloads (I use a MacBook Pro) and insert them in my blog draft.  This is the only way I could make it work and I'm extremely angry that the new Blogger changed so much with zero explanations or guides.  Google was even using the old guidelines which no longer work.  

What a rant!  I have a picture here from last year.  I love my vintage salt & pepper shakers.  Many never notice that they're not Mr. and Mrs. Claus, they are actually two Santa's.  Isn't that odd?  Maybe the maker never saw Miracle On 34th Street...there is only one Father Christmas!  

I haven't even begun to stuff is beautifully organized downstairs but I like to buy my live tree first.  And I'm seriously going to go minimal this year and I really mean it!  There may be no company, no one dropping in, and who knows if I'll be able to have the kids and grands here in the morning for gift giving and mimosas. I'm playing it by ear.

I read and hear a lot about people putting on the Covid pounds; working from home and indulging a bit too much on food and drink to heal our loss of family and social life, it's not uncommon.  But I'm addressing cravings here.  I often wonder if we have them because our bodies are telling us we are missing something.  Or maybe we just get hooked on something we haven't had in awhile.  

I gave up yogurt when I really started to cut carbs well over fifteen years ago when the Atkins diet became a hit.  I still have fond memories of the days when I worked in an office in my early twenties.  Once in awhile the receptionist, and a great pal, would leave a carton of Dannon yogurt on my desk as a little surprise when she brought her own.  Then I would return the favor.  Don't ask me how but we never did it on the same day.  

Early this year I came across Two Good yogurt (this is not a paid promotion).  I was looking for the glitch ...2 grams of sugar and fat?  80 calories?  It sounded too (two) good to be true.  Well, I can tell you, its as smooth and creamy as pudding, and the flavors are perfect without being overly tart.  I believe it's in most grocery stores.  I really love the peach and mixed berry flavors.  Give it a shot.

So, was my body telling me I needed calcium?  Protein?  Were my taste buds telling me that salty potato chips and sweet cookies were no longer necessary? Who knows but I should own stock in the company and I would love a year of 
free Two Good if the Yogurt Gods are reading.😂

By summer my cravings 
 turned into fruit.  Fresh fruit is often a side or a snack at the cottage, especially with the little grandkidlets running around in the sun and heat.  I like a little bowl of fruit when we have breakfast at restaurants, but at this point I was cutting up an abundance of fruit I would buy; pineapple, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, etc.  And the best part to me is to stir and flip the fruit everyday to get that refreshing and flavorful combination of the mixed juices.  So no one is surprised to see ripening pineapple with its pretty texture and festive top, or melons taking up space in the fridge.  So, what is my body craving?  Hydration?  Natural sugars?  Something crunchy and cooling?  Hmmmm...

Spicy Ginger Beef Noodles

And yet another must-have food: noodles.  I'll take them any way.  I also wanted beef broth and saltiness.  And thus ramen bowls became a hit in Blondie's household.  You can find a lot of choices of ramen noodles in the Asian aisle of your grocery store, they are wheat based and originate from Japan, but come in many different forms.  

Anyway, I love noodles and I've been craving salt, and what better excuse do you have for taking in a coma inducing amount of salty soy sauce?  I was adding it to food much like kids add ketchup to everything.  So I was making many bowls of ramen and this is one I created and is a keeper. 

Jane's Spicy Ginger Beef Noodles

8 oz. noodles of your choice
1 T veggie oil
1 t sesame oil
8 oz thinly sliced sirloin beef
1 knob (or inch) of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 c (or a handful) of fresh snow peas
1 c baby Bok choy, thinly sliced into ribbons
3 cloves of garlic,  finely chopped
4 c beef broth 
1/4 c soy sauce
2-3 scallions, trimmed, tops and bottoms, roughly chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 c fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

My mantra, particularly in this recipe, is to chop, slice, grate, or whatever before you begin cooking.  It's essential for a recipe that involves bringing the layers of flavor together in a short amount of time.  Don't get fussy, just do all of this work at the start and keep everything separated on your cutting board (mine is super large)

Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Turn the heat down to low and cover.  Meanwhile, add both oils to a large skillet over high heat.  Add the beef and cook, using tongs to flip about 2 minutes.  

Lower the heat to medium and add the ginger, snow peas, and Bok choy, and continue to toss approximately 2-3 minutes.  Add the garlic and toss for another minute, then add the beef broth and soy sauce.  Let simmer on low.

Up the heat on the pot of water for the noodles to a boil.  Add them, stir often and check the noodles by tasting them until they are soft, then strain.

Divide the noodles into two bowls, pour over the veggie/broth mixture. Top with scallions, a bit of red pepper flakes, and the cilantro.  Serve immediately. 

I made a pasta dinner one night last week and while I usually use half the box, I used the whole pound...way too much for The Husband and I.  I kept the remaining half cooked pound in the fridge not sure of what to do with it and not liking waste.  Then I came across a recipe for baked spaghetti, actually quite a few.  I got the gist of it and then put together this recipe.  Feel free to make changes as far as the ingredients and cheeses.  You will absolutely love this.  

Jane's Pasta Casserole

1/2 pound spaghetti noodles, cooked
5 bacon strips, roughly chopped
1 T vegetable oil
1 onion chopped
1 sweet pepper, red, orange or yellow-your choice,  finely chopped
garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1/2 c frozen peas, thawed
5 T butter cut into small pieces
1 1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese, divided
2 T dried oregano
2 T dried rosemary
2 t nutmeg
2 t ground cloves
5 eggs, whisked
2 T butter, melted
1 c bread crumbs
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese

Place the bacon pieces in a large skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp.  Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.  When the skillet is somewhat cool, wipe out the remaining bacon drippings with paper towels.  Add the vegetable oil and once hot, the onions and peppers.  Saute over medium heat until just softened.  Add the garlic and stir for another minute and off the heat.

Place the cooked pasta in a large bowl.  With two forks or your fingers (as I did, clean of course), separate the strands of spaghetti until no longer sticky and clumped.  Add the cooked veggies, the peas, 1 cup of the mozzarella and  butter.  Do another good toss. 

 Mix the dried spices and salt and pepper together in a small dish.  Add half to the pasta mix, toss, and then the other half, tossing again until it's evenly incorporated.  Since the pasta is cooked, you can sample a forkful to adjust the seasoning before baking. 

Pour the mixture into a casserole dish of your choosing.  I used a deep dish so I'd get more density and less dryness.  Once in the dish, mix things together again.  You want everything blended.  Pour the whisked eggs evenly over the pasta and then top with the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes covered with foil  Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes.  Top the casserole with the bread crumb mixture and return to the oven for another 10 minutes or as I did, under the broiler until lightly browned.

Let the casserole cool slightly, then using a knife, slice into squares.  Use a spatula to serve.  Oh girls, you will ❤️ this recipe!  Serves 6-8 with a side salad or good bread.  Enjoy!


 I found the recommendations for this book on Instagram but I can't remember where.  As a writer I was drawn to it, and as a long time admirer of the First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, I knew this would suit me.  

Amazon description: The about a struggling writer who gets his big break, with a little help from the most famous woman in America.

It's fictional but based on fact.  In the last years of her life, Jackie was an editor at Doubleday. When she died, her son said that she passed away peacefully, surrounded by family and her precious books. I'm only a few chapters in so the verdict is not out.  Stay tuned, I'm loving it so far.   

I wrote on Instagram that I was well into this limited series on Netflix.  Wow, it seems I'm the last one on the train!  I'm really liking it thus far.  The Husband and I, as well as our older sons, were avid chess players, we had family tournaments quite a bit.  I think I'm going to dust off the old set.

As I said in the beginning of my post, I haven't yet started to decorate for Christmas.  This is a very sweet arrangement my daughter, Emily, made for a cabinet using faux greenery and little wood cutout homes from the dollar bins at Target.  I love her creativity and design on a dime.  I'm going to go very minimal, and to keep that mindset I'm only going to bring up select items from my bins and rely very much on candles and greenery.  I always fail to remember whatever I bring out also has to be put away.   Ugh...

Who knows how Christmas will be.  Our Thanksgiving family get-together was gathering in our backyard in 40 degree weather, wearing coats and hats and holding plastic cups of mimosas while wearing masks and walking around in an effort not to spend too much time with any one person.  Some of my family has had Covid, others were exposed, but this occurred well before Thanksgiving and they were all cleared.  Still...

Christmas is a toss up.  We've thought that maybe we  can do our traditional Christmas morning brunch and gift giving, at least for the sake the grands.  Even my children have gotten overly sentimental about it.  I'm hoping with the right protection: ventilation, masks, staying apart from one another and limiting our time, we might manage it.  No decisions yet.  

Emily found this discarded, once sad looking sleigh.  She spiffed it up with a little black paint, and created a cute winter scene!  The best thing is that her daughter, (and my much loved granddaughter!) Madelyn, participates in all of these projects.  She's going to be as inspiring as her mama.  I shared this wiz of a designer in my last post.

Okay, in winding up I'll give you a few things I'd love to hear about in your comments:

1). How's your holiday decorating going?  Finished or in no hurry?

2). Has the stress of this unprecedented time in our lives caused you to make changes in your eating habits, in particular cravings?  Or is it just me?  What are your favorite snacks and go to foods?

3). Do you think I should continue to post recipes?  I'm not a food blogger but like to share some newish sort of ways of cooking that come out of my scattered brain.

4). What are you reading and watching?  How much time are you devoting to these things?  And if your thing is knitting or journaling, how's that going?

5). Do you have definitive holiday plans?  What sort of precautions and protocol do you utilize right now as the pandemic is at it's all time high?

You don't have to answer each question.  As when you took exams in school, if you don't know the answer to a question, move on and come back to it later.😂😂😂

Love and good health to all!❤️

Jane x