We had an excess of lemons in the fridge, so my wife made a batch of lemon curd. It only used up two lemons, but that’s two less than we had before, and lemon curd is freaking delicious, so it’s a win-win.
You gotta have something to go WITH the lemon curd, obviously, so she made a pound cake and a batch of blueberry scones. The blueberry scones were excellent, just the thing to have with my Saturday morning mug of coffee and a dollop of lemon curd. I wasn’t a fan of the pound cake; we agreed that the recipe wasn’t great. Another time, maybe a lemon tart or lemon meringue pie would be better, sice they really highlight the lemon curd.
I ended up having the scones for breakfast three days in a row. Scones are a nice, easy thing to make first thing in the morning when you want something freshly baked for breakfast. Unfortunately, there are a lot of terrible scones out there, but this recipe had a bit more loft than most.
A few years ago, when I was working in Cambridge, I used to bake for my co-workers. There were a handful of people in the office who were lactose and/or gluten intolerant, so I dipped a toe into LF and GF baking. I became lactose intolerant myself in my late 40s, and at the time I was avoiding as much dairy as possible, which meant always having to skip the birthday cakes, ice cream, pizza, and other treats that were brought in for various office events.
I don’t feel like I ever really got the hang of gluten-free baking, but this cake was one of the better attempts. Even from the photo you can see that the texture is a little off, but it wasn’t too far off from a conventional apple spice cake, and the flavor was on point. I found the King Arthur gluten-free baking mix worked best for anything that needed to have structure, like cake.
I had better luck with lactose-free baking, mainly because it’s easier to substitute fats than flour. And, not long after I started doing this, a company called Green Valley brought out a whole line of lactose-free dairy products – sour cream, cream cheese, even butter. The butter was a absolute godsend for me, not just for baking but for regular cooking, too. I made an LF cheesecake one time, and a co-worker who had nevr eaten cheesecake in her life because of lactose intolerance was able to eat some for the first time. That was a very rewarding experience for me as someone who loves to cook.
Country-style pork ribs in mushroom-onion gravy, sauteed green beans with garlic and red pepper flakes, rice pilaf
This barely qualifies as cooking in my book. I browned the pork in a skillet, sweated down some onions, and dumped in two cans of mushroom gravy, then put it in the oven for half an hour to finish. Microwave green beans until barely tender, then sautee in olive oil with some sliced garlic and toss with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Rice pilaf mix from a box. Less than an hour, but a nice, warm, comforting meal on a winter evening.
Starting to dig a little bit into my older photos.
This sandwich is from Sebastian’s Cafe in Kendall Square in Cambridge. I worked in Kendall Square for six years, and on nice days would take the extra time to walk over from my office, usually to get one of these sandwiches. That’s Genoa salami, mortadella, capicola (gabbagool, as Tony Soprano would say), roasted red peppers, and provolone on ciabatta, dressed with a little olive oil. I like a sub as much as the next person, but this is a good, elevated version of an Italian sandwich. Without all the veggies you get on a sub, the meat really has to do all the work. The combo of the three different kinds of meat brings a nice interplay of flavors. The roasted red peppers provide the sweet contrast. I think they could improve this with a little red wine vinegar to add a touch of acidity.
We had several different kind of frozen dumplings taking up a lot of space in the freezer, so we had Dumpling Night for dinner. Those big ones in the front are Korean kimchi and pork dumplings. The round ones are xiao long bao – Shanghai-style soup dumplings. The flat-ish ones are pork and veggie gyoza. There’s also some daikon (muu) kimchi and a bowl of steamed edamame. Not in the photo are some kimchi pancakes and some vegetable pancakes.
Maybe we should have called lit Kimchi Night, because it featured so prominently. The muu kimchi is homemade. My mother gave my wife a kimchi making it for Christmas and this was her first attempt. It was really good.
Of the dumplings, I especially love soup dumplings. These are frozen ones I ordered online, and they are acceptable but nothing special. We like to go to a couple of places that specialize in them, so we’re spoiled for very good ones. The frozen gyozas are something we often keep on hand, since they make for an easy lunch. The kimchi-pork ones were something we picked up at H-Mart and liked well enough to buy a second bag.
The two different kinds of pancakes did not turn out great. My wife did the cooking, and I think having to handle so many things at once got away from her a little bit. But the kimchi pancakes showed promise.
I enjoy baking a little, but I’d much rather cook. My wife enjoys cooking a little, but she’d much rather bake. Works out pretty well on average. She’s made this caramel cranberry apple pie a few times now, and it is usually excellent. She made one for Christmas, though, where she accidentally used salt instead of sugar (I still have no idea how she coud mistake the two very different-sized canisters). That one went directly in the trash.
Our daughter insists that she does not like pie, but I think this is just youthful contrarianism. Who doesn’t like pie?
Breakfast on New Year’s Eve Day was at a longtime Salem diner stalwart, Dottie & Ray’s. Plenty of places to get a good diner breakfast in this town, which suits us just fine. This place changed hands a year or so ago, so for those of you who remember it as a less-than-stellar experience in the past, you might give it a try now.
It’s not fancy, to be sure. But I think fancy sometimes overpowers what should be a straightforward meal. When we go to breakfast, I am often torn between getting something sweet, like pancakes or French toast, and something protein-heavy like bacon and eggs. And too often if you order one of those “hungry man” type entrees that have both, there is too much on the plate to make much of a dent in. So this was just about the right speed for me – three not-too-thick slices of cinnamon swirl bread, a couple of eggs, and a couple of slices of bacon. I ate it all and had plenty of room for our NYE feast that evening.
After feasting on so many luze things over the New Year’s weekend, I needed a little simple comfort food, so I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich and a nice hot bowl of Campbell’s Tomato Soup (not shown). You’ll excuse the bite in the sandwich, but it was calling my name and I had to try it before I remembered to pull out my phone and snap a photo.
I always use milk in my Campbell’s Tomato Soup, since that’s how my mother always made it for me when I was growing up. In fact, I don’t thinl I ever had it made with water until long after I was an adult, and, I’m sorry, that’s just not the way it should be. I also love a pat of butter melting on the top, and lots of freshly ground black pepper in the soup. I’ve made my own creamy tomato soup a few times, but I don’t know if I like it any better than the Campbell’s.
American cheese is usually what I use in a homemade grilled cheese, but I like ’em with other cheeses as well. I like to watch Binging With Babish on YouTube, and he made some particularly interesting grilled cheese sandwiches that I have on my must-try list. For comfort food, though, it’s Kraft American Singles all the way. Also, real butter on the bread. I like to melt about a tablespooj of butter in the microwave and pour the melted butter on the bread slices before grilling. That lets the butter really soak into the bread a bit. Don’t even talk to me about using mayo on the outside of the bread.
Together, the creamy soup and the melty cheese toastie were a plain-and-wholesome antidote to the posh noshes I’d been eating all weekend. It snowed at the end of last week, and in retrospect I kind of wish I’d saved them until the snow day, but maybe there will be another opportunity for that trifecta before winter is over.
Since we moved in 2019 and have a backyard available to us again, I grew a couple of pots of tomatoes in 2020 and 2021. The 2020 tomatoes were fabulous. The 2021 pots got off to a cracking start thanks to sunny, hot weather, but I didn’t realize I had bought a variety that produces small fruit, and then the weather got wet, and so I was a little disappointed. Nevertheless, I got a few that were good enough to make a few homemade BLTs.
My preferences for the other main ingredients (the B and L) are North Country Smokehouse Cob Smoked Bacon and Boston (or Butter) Lettuce. The North Country Smokehouse bacon is simply the absolute best bacon I have ever eaten anywhere. I was amazed and delighted to find it at our local Market Basket, since I had originally only seen it at higher-end markets, so we buy it (or the equally good Applewood thick-cut) on the regular. Boston lettuce, for me, is the perfect lettuce for sandwiches of any kind, not just BLTs.
I know people are all about adding avocado slices these days, but the only other thing on this sandwich is a little mayonnaise. If I’m in the mood, I will make my own mayo, but usually rely on good old Hellmann’s.
This was good-but-not great. Next year I will be more careful about what tomato plants I buy and hope the weather holds.