Friday, September 11, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 4 - Pasta!!!




PANDEMIC DIARY
How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 4
PASTA!!!


In my last pandemic diary entry I told you how I've thankfully gained only five pounds with all the cocktails, wine and amazing dinners Richard has made - and I probably wouldn't have even gained that if it wasn't for the outrageously good pasta dinners he's made between his low carb feasts.

Then the other night I woke up w/ the full moon shining through the bedroom window hearing a trolley clanging in my head and singing "Rice A Roni, the San Francisco Treat" over and over in my half-asleep brain, a commercial I remembered as a kid.  As far as I recall, my mother never actually made Rice A Roni, and back then I'd never been to San Francisco, but the jingle was catchy and since one couldn't mute commercials in those ancient TV days or DVR shows in advance so you could fast-forward them, I was a captive audience. I couldn't get rice out of my brain (and I'm not a big lover of rice) - but, I had to have some pasta and there just happened to be leftover orzo in the fridge.  The sun hadn't risen when I found myself in the kitchen microwaving the leftover orzo and wolfing it down in a frenzy like an addict shooting up a dose of heroin.  The craving was satisfied.  And, like an addict, I went into a hazy euphoria trance when I finished my little cup of orzo.  Not a good look.  Carbs!  White carbs!  I had just fallen off the wagon.
Confession:  I hate to say that I'm on the Keto diet - it sounds so tres trendy (and really is just basically the NuAtkins diet w/ a hipster name) - but that is how I've been eating for over a year - losing 20 pounds and mostly maintaining.  It's not that I don't have bread (I'm a sandwich junkie, so yeh!) - I just don't have it often... WELL, unless someone drops off homemade sourdough (which happens now and again and I cannot resist) or Richard bakes his no knead bread (ditto the sourdough parenthesis) ... AND, it's not that I don't have a baked potato now and again - when I make one for Richard, it's usually a huge one and I indulge by cutting off an end then loading it up with butter and salt... or I've been known to have a bit of mashed potatoes.  But, when I do have a major craving for mashed potatoes and know I'd eat a bowl full if Richard makes it - he keeps me on track and makes mashed cauliflower, a pretty good substitute (and you must try mac & cheese made w/ cauliflower instead of macaroni - to die for) - but I digress...  we're talking about pasta, and if you put a plate or bowl of pasta in front of me, I'm a goner, especially when Richard makes one of his delicious concoctions.

There's his mushroom w/ shrimp fettuccine...


His pappardelle pasta noodle with asparagus, ham (sometimes mild sausage) EVOO and freshly grated parm.


Or his shrimp (sometimes chicken) linguini w/ EVOO, rosemary, garlic and spinach (sometimes peas)...



 ... shrimp scampi orzo w/ spinach.  Spinach is a great addition - you can just fold it in the pasta at the end just so it wilts.  Yum.  AND it adds a real healthful element to any pasta dish.



His traditional spaghetti and meatball dinner. Homemade tomato sauce... his own meatballs... Eating doesn't get much better. 


Ah, but then there's his spaghetti and meat sauce.


And last, but not least, Richard's version of Wolfgang Puck's mushroom pasta.  One of the joys of my foodie life.


Now if only I could get that Rice A Roni jingle out of my head so I can next write about all the marvelous low carb meals we've been feasting on since we've been sequestered.

During this 'stay at home' period, some people have repainted rooms and rearranged furniture - others are cleaning out their closets or garages - folks are taking online aerobic or yoga classes - others are binge watching television series (well, have to admit we're doing that, too) and many others are engaged in video home schooling of their kids or conducting their businesses online...

We write - we read - we watch TV.... AND I get to eat at the only indoor fine-dining restaurant for two in town.

Bon appetit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!






Saturday, August 29, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 3 - Breakfast

PANDEMIC DIARY
How I Spent My Sequester - Pt.3
Breakfast


 To Keto or not to Keto, that is the question?

Backstory - since the sequester, I've hiked (well, as I've mentioned before - "hike" is a 'loose' definition of what I do on most mornings).. after which, I'm hunched over my computer for hours "talking" to friends and bitching on Facebook, scrolling thru Twitter and Instagram... BUT, I've also started the sequel to my political thriller "Freeze Frame" (www.ilonasaari.com), written articles for the Ojai Quarterly and Ojai Monthly glossy magazines, binged on television series and gained 5 pounds (one lb + ounces for every month) so far!  It's all Richard's cooking's fault.  Hey, my blog isn't called "My Dinners With Richard" for nothing - and I've never claimed to have any will power when it comes to food (I am a food lover/writer, after all)...  Here's a taste as to how these 5 pounds set up camp in my body.

When left to my own devices, I start the day off most mornings with an egg or some cheese or a handful of almonds or a slice of meat - maybe an avocado - for breakfast - but on weekends, Richard often makes us breakfast/brunch... there goes the ketosis.

To Keto -

Sometimes it's an omelet or scrambled eggs



 sometimes a fried egg over medium...

and then there's his pancakes made with almond flower and a side of bacon...  


or, waffles from a Keto mix gifted us from a friend.  Or...

 
Not To Keto - 

Bagels!  
 
Another bagel morning - sans Nova

 OK - Richard didn't bake the bagels or grow the tomatoes or catch the salmon - nor did he hold a gun to my head forcing me to eat them, but, I'm a New Yorker - we love bagels - well, real NY bagels - and these were REAL New York bagels given to us by a friend at the beginning of the pandemic...  but, I still blame Richard - what's a husband for anyway?
 
Avocado toast! 

To be fair - this is on bread w/ only 9 grams of carbs per slice
Then there's Richard's baked goodies to be eaten anytime... 

Lemon Bread!  
 
My mom's recipe can be found on this blog
Buttermilk Drop Biscuits!! 
For supper or breakfast or anytime during the day
No Knead Bread!!!
Recipe on this blog
 Fresh out of the oven, still warm with butter melting on the slice - how does one resist?

I won't even get into the amazing pasta dishes he's made since the sequester -- that will be my next story to tell... with pulchritudinous pictures.



 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

;PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2 (b)








PANDEMIC DIARY 
How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2(b) 

As the summer gets hotter but thankfully with 'dry heat' here in Ojai, my girlfriend and I still meet to hike-walk a few mornings each week.  The bike trail or on sidewalks in the town's tony neighborhoods are our most frequent early morning walks, but during this pandemic time when we all need a bit of spirituality, even those who are not particularly spiritual, the Krotona center overlooking the Ojai Valley, has become a special morning walk.

 Ojai, famous for its new age-y vibe and Krishnamurti's home and spiritual center, recently reported UFO sightings by residents during 2020's harmonic conversion celebration.  Friday, the Ojai Valley News, our local paper, ran a story on the front page, "above the fold," the headline of which was "Mass meditation held to summon ET to Ojai."  What a town!  Probably why Frank Capra filmed exteriors for his "Lost Horizon" Shangri-La movie here in Ojai.  So you can see why the most 'jaded' among us might seek out a walk-hike in a place filled with spirituality during this period of isolation.


Krotona is just one of several spiritual venues that include Meditation Mount, which overlooks the Valley from another POV with its beautiful gardens, yoga classes and other sessions.  I'll save that one for another blog.  Here are some highlights from the Krotona website:

"Krotona is an international center where residents aspire to live in mutual helpfulness while reaching out to share the profound truths of Theosophy. These truths can change one’s direction of life, bringing about renewal and harmony. With an emphasis on meditation, earnest study, and inspired action, Krotona promotes worldwide healing through the uplifting of human consciousness."

"As a spiritual center, Krotona seeks to inspire and strengthen aspirants for the opportunities of daily life. The peacefulness of the estate, which also serves as a sanctuary for wildlife, reflects the ideals of the resident TS members as well as the aspirations of committed faculty, students and other friends."

Besides, it's really a pretty place to hike-walk.


The estate also has two rose gardens, a library, meeting rooms, and rooms to rent for short stays as well as the many permanent homes.

I can't say I find a feeling of nirvana walking there, but it is pretty and lifts my sequester spirits.



Tuesday, July 14, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2 (a)




PANDEMIC DIARY
How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 2 (a)
The Bike Trail

So, after eleven months, I had scheduled a mani-pedi for today, but - alas - my governor re-shutdown hair and nail salons, gyms, etc. yesterday because of the surging cases of Covid in California.  I shaved my legs for nothing.  But not to worry - no "woe is me" necessary as I live in the beautiful, rural valley of Ojai (Shangri-La or Oz to many residents) an artistic, mystical, spiritual, farming community an hour and a half north of LA, with residents ranging from farmers and winemakers to shopkeepers, writers, actors, directors, painters, sculptors, spiritualists, even movie stars. (How's that for a run-on description?)

Ojai is a unique valley and village which hosts a world famous classical music festival, the oldest amateur tennis competition in America... has an international film festival, a thriving theater community, and one the country's most sought-after resorts, an inn and spa with a PGA world-class golf course boasting breathtaking views.  Not to mention, Ojai is famous for its "pink moments" when the sun is setting and turns the Topa Topa mountains a gorgeous pale pink.  That spectacularly peaceful visage brought Krishnamurti to Ojai decades ago, along with Beatrice Wood, the mother of the Dada art movement.

But, like everywhere else in America that has a governor and a mayor with good sense, most all of the above activities have come to a halt once again.  But, we have trails and retreats where we can get outside and hike, or in my case hike-walk (hey, getting old with arthritis isn't always pretty), so today I'm focusing on my bike trail hike-walks that I've been doing with a friend (yes, we mask) during our sequester.

Our most frequent hike-walks is on the eleven mile bike trail from Ojai to the Pacific Ocean beaches of Ventura.  The trail used to be train track route for Ojai farmers to get their produce to market.

The part of the trail we hike-walk the most:

Ojai's original jail.  Drunk tank?
We pass Richard's athletic/tennis club
stone walls and arches from days gone by
a house on the trail from days gone by
Another section of the bike trail we frequest...



And yet another bike trail walk-hike...


One of the most beautiful places in America to take a hike...  so, we walk the walk while we talk the talk thru our masks.  Trail along with me as we leave the bike trail and head out to the Ojai nature conservancy and the Krotona spiritual retreat in my next blogs.

Y'all stay safe.  Wash your hands often.  Wear a mask in public.  Don't drink bleach. 


Monday, May 25, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 1



 
PANDEMIC DIARY
How I Spent My Sequester
Part 1


With all the negatives of sequestering, I have one positive.  Richard's doing all the dinner cooking (I didn't name my blog "My Dinners With Richard & Other Musings" for nothing).

At some point I'll muse about other things, but right now I'll focus on the food I've been eating and cocktails I've been drinking (and so far, weeks into the 2020 Pandemic, I've gained only two pounds... and I did NOTHING to the bathroom scale... nothing!) 

We've been starting our evenings with a cocktail - When we have one in a restaurant, it's a vodka martini (hold the vermouth) for me and single malt for Richard.  Normally we're not mixed-drink cocktail people, but hey, we're not going anywhere and neither is the liquor, so why not?  Especially after I dragged out from our cookbook closet/pantry an old (30's/40's) wooden cocktail recipe book and a 'drinks' pamphlet from the forties that I had inherited from my parents - We looked at the whiskeys in our drinks cupboard and shook up a new drink each night.  We hit new shaker heights!


Here are top favorites so far. 

Gin Fizz
Cosmopolitans
Gin Orange Blossoms
Pixie Tangerine & Bourbon Sours
Scotch sours

"Penicillin" - Scotch rocks w/ Ginger Honey
 
Some of the sequester dinners Richard has made in our very own sequester kitchen:
Richard dishing out his shrimp scampi risotto
Cauliflower Mac & Cheese  w/ Bacon - a dish made in keto heaven
Chicken in a Tarragon(Richard added fennel) cream sauce + zucchini - divine
Crispy Frico Chicken Breast w// Mushrooms & Thyme + green beans - a freaky good frico!
Roasted Salmon w/ Peas & Radishes - a Rad dish!  (sorry)
Sauteed Salmon in Lime Butter Sauce + Corn & Broccoli - citrus-y succulent!
Sole Almondine (an all-time favorite) + summer squash & asparagus. O Sole Mio!
Korean Meatballs w/ Mashed Carrots & Peas - Seoul Food!
But, after scouring all our cook books, Richard dragged out our old Weight Watchers "123 Success Recipe Collection" and made my favorite pork chops which he hadn't made in years --- so, so good.


PORK CHOPS & APPLE with MAPLE-BOURBON GLAZE



 Ingredients:

4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Four 4-oz boneless, lean center-cut pork chops
1 apple peeled, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/3 - 1/2 cup bourbon

Directions: 

Spray a large nonstick skillet w/ nonstick cooking spray;  heat.  On a large sheet of wax paper, combine the flour, salt and pepper.  Dredge the pork chops in the flour mix on all sides, then saute until browned, about 5 minutes on each side.  Transfer to a plate/platter.

Spray the skillet w/ more nonstick cooking spray; cook the apple, stirring frequently, until lightly browned and slightly softened.  About 2 minutes.  Transfer to the plate/platter with the pork chops.

Pour the maple syrup into the skillet, then add 1/3 cup of bourbon; stir to combine thoroughly.  Return the pork chops and apple to the skillet; reduce the heat and cook until the chops are cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Transfer the chops and apple to a new platter.

If pan juices are too thick to stir, add the remaining bourbon.  Increase the heat to high and boil  the pan juices, stirring constantly, until thick and syrupy, 1-2 minutes.  Serve on the side.

4 servings

Per serving:
301 calories
ll g total fat
4 g saturated fat
54 mg cholesterol
322 mg sodium
13 g carbohydrate
1 g dietary fiber
25 g protein
41 mg calcium

WW points per serving:  7

Bon Appetit!

However you're passing your sequester time, please be safe and well.  Wear a mask for your neighbor and stay out of crowds.