Monday, November 16, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 6 - Chicken in Every Pot (or Pan)!


PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 6 - 

Chicken in Every Pot (or Pan)!

So the pandemic has taken away our ability to socialize (eat) with friends in an indoor restaurant and now it's too cold to eat outside.  (Well, to be honest, Ojai isn't Syracuse.  We don't get eight feet of snow, nor below freezing temps and most of our restaurants have outdoor heaters, but I digress...)  This inability is at least for those who take to heart that this is a pandemic and don't live in a town with fewer than ten citizens.  After nine months, give or take, my gestating need to be out with friends has given birth to wanting to know at 6 a.m. what dinner Richard's planning to make for dinner each night .... a pandemic habit that's beginning to annoy him.  In my defense, I am a paid food writer and need food writing fixes, AND since I can't be out and about doing my food writing thing, I need something to look forward to each day besides weighing myself everyday and seeing that I still have not lost the six pounds I've gained while sheltering in place.  
AND, sigh, Thanksgiving is fast-approaching AND large family gatherings would be Covid spreaders, so no larger gathering for us...  Hopefully, many of you can do small, in-house dinners with immediate family or share Zoom celebrations with a larger number of friends and family.  But, since we've been sequestered, Richard hasn't roasted any turkeys for me to write about.  However, you've heard the expression, chicken in every pot, right?  So, if you're making a small Thanksgiving dinner and don't want to go afowl (pun intended) of the day's poultry tradition, here are some of my favorite Richard "cooking in place while sheltering in place" chicken dinners.
Joanna Gaines' chicken Florentine... 

Boneless, skinless chicken breast in a creamy fresh tarragon sauce...

Chicken corden bleu...
MY chicken parm... Yes, I do cook now and again... 

Chicken piccata...

Chicken pot pie from our friend Nigel Chisholm...

 Chicken thighs baked w/ a honey mustard crust...

Chicken with blueberry sauce...

Nigella Lawson's coq au Riesling...
Roast chicken -  stuffed w/40 garlics from "My Beautiful Cookbook - France"...

Bake/roasted Rock Cornish game hens w/ a couscous/pine nut stuffing...

As I said - a chicken in every pot - chicken for every occasion.  
Bon appetit!!!  

Saturday, October 17, 2020

PANDEMIC DIARY - How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 5 - Go Fish!


 How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 5
Keto - Go Fish!

I don't know about you, but for me, this pandemic is getting old.  Very old and gray.  I haven't been to the gym in 8 months, tho I do hike three mornings a week (well, "hike" is an exaggeration - "walk" is more like it), but still, 5 pounds (some days 6) seems to have been added to my scale.  Not a happy camper. It's back to strict Keto (the trendy new way to describe old NuAtkins).

Being on a Keto/NuAtkins diet is not a hardship for me.  I can't eat much fruit, so those sugar carbs are not something I worry about.  And, I'm really not a dessert lover... well, except those "homemade" Pillsbury frozen chocolate chip cookies that come in a cookie dough roll you find in the refrigerator section in the supermarket, then slice and bake... or McConnell's peppermint ice cream with those delicious little chunks of pink peppermint candies laced throughout that remind me of Howard Johnson's peppermint stick ice cream I loved as a child. My problem is the starchy carbs.  Bread, pasta, mashed potatoes... you get my drift.  I love sandwiches and cheeseburgers in buns, and pastas of all shapes and sizes... and nothing is more comforting than a huge helping of mashed potatoes, and don't even get me started on salt-based snacks like Ruffles, pretzels, and Cheez-Its... OK - it IS kind of a hardship.
 But, if I keep my "bad" carb intake below 20 grams, the weight comes flying off.  Thankfully, white wine has few carbs (and I get a fruit intake) and vodka has none.  Martinis for dinner!!!  So, yes, I'm back of Keto/NuAtkins.
 The reason why I actually like this diet and why I can stay with it pretty much is that I love protein, be it meat, chicken, fish, eggs or cheese... I'm a confessed cheeseaholic you might remember.  If I had to give up cheese, life wouldn't be worth living, thank you very much.  And, I love salads and veggies - all veggies (well, with the possible exception of okra). 
Because Richard's been cooking dinners most nights, I have quite a few favorite Keto/NuAtkins fish dinners:
Always top of my "fish for dinner" list is golden bass sauteed in butter, garlic, capers and fresh lemon juice ...

Or Jamie Oliver's roasted white fish (your choice of white fish) w/ bacon, lemon in a mayo sauce - you can find the recipe online...

 There were dinners of salmon roasted w/ peas and radishes...
... or roasted w/ radishes, fennel and thinly sliced orange.

Sauteed salmon w/ a lime, butter sauce...  (I know corn has starchy carbs, but I was under my 20 grams for the day.

Shrimp dishes are always a favorite of mine even if they aren't tossed in pasta.  I love shrimp scampi and Richard often serves it just w/ spinach - or sometimes adds his cream sauce, peas and parsley...

Then there's his shrimp sauteed w/ garlic and butter and folded w/ spinach into spaghetti squash...

We both love scallops and don't eat them enough, but his scallops in a lemon basil sauce is one of my favorite fish dinners - w/ a side of mashed broccoli...

And a thank you to Julia Child for introducing us to sole almondine (did cheat a little when I had the orzo)...
Two favorite tilapia dishes are sauteed tilapia in butter, fresh lemon juice, capers and garlic (that's mashed cauliflower - not potato) and the fish baked in a raspberry vinegar sauce...
And my favorite fish of all (not counting lobster)... swordfish - like a few other white fish dishes, also sauteed in butter, garlic, lemon juice and capers - here w/ asparagus and mashed cauliflower...
Though I do miss meeting friends at a restaurant for dinner, be it fine dining or a burger... I have to admit that no restaurant compares to Richard's dinners for two, not only in taste but convenience.  And, his suppers are something to look forward to every day during this sheltering in place time.

Bon Appetit.


Friday, September 11, 2020

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

How I Spent My Sequester - Pt. 4

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

How I Spent My Sequester - Pt.3

 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" (, 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 - 

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)

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.