Italian food fan? I’ve got the book for you! Prefer easy, quick meals? I’ve got a new book for you, too!
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Remember the two free cookbooks I received last week? Well, I used the first one over the weekend. I also had two surprise dinner guests who didn’t know they would be taste-testers. I also heard from Neighbor E, who was visiting our HEB over the weekend and had. . .free ice cream! Oh, the things I miss here. Let’s get started!
National Ice Cream Day
Ok, somewhere, it became this holiday, and I heard about it on Facebook. HEB brought out a truck to the Clear Lake Marketplace to celebrate, and Neighbor E was kind enough to send some pictures.
I’m sure that in the heat of this summer, everyone was happy to see that when the arrived.
Is that not a happy sight?
Speaking of friendly faces:
Hi, Miss Lei!! I was so happy to see your face when he sent me this pic. Hang on, what were you serving?
Speaking of friendly faces, Neighbor E enjoyed his ice cream and hammed it up with one someone from the local aerospace community:
Loved this picture too.
Ahh, HEB ice cream. . .another thing to look forward to one of these days.
The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo
As I mentioned last week, I was gifted two cookbooks by Callisto Press, and this book was one of them. I really like this book, even though it doesn’t have as many pictures as one by Giada de Laurentiis. It has good food and some pictures, as well as good info. That’s a good one in my book (pardon the pun.)
When I explained it to BF, I reminded him that “Italian food isn’t all about spaghetti.” We’ve been to Olive Garden a few times, and he responded, “If you’ll notice, I order the Alfredo.” As in Fettuccine Alfredo, and that’s still like spaghetti, and it’s PASTA. I giggled at him and explained the difference. He looked at me funny, as usual.
The introduction answers the question, “What Is Italian Cooking?” Ms. Montillo goes into the regions, and the different things you’ll find in each. “When it comes to Italian cooking,” she says, “the quality of ingredients far outweighs quantity.” I wholeheartedly agree. Italian food in Italy is cooked in this fashion, while Italian food cooked in American kitchens tends to have more ingredients because it can. Everything is clearly explained, with cooking time, designations like “kid friendly,” “family friendly” and “30-minutes or less.”
The Accidental Dinner Party
Let me say here that I always appreciated Neighbor E’s honest input when I tested recipes in Houston. And that I’m going to test his resolve now, but will post the recipe soon.
So, Sunday BF was home, and asked his cousin from Mississippi to come for a visit and help him work on a car. He did, and I figured I’d cook for him. At some point, I went outside and asked BF in an officious voice, “has this man been notified that he will be used as a taste-tester?” He was, but right before I began cooking, he was called home. The man lives about 30 minutes away, just north of the LA/MS border on the “L” part of the state, so it wasn’t like going back to Houston. But he had to leave, and then it was just me and BF.
I worked until 7 pm, and then got started right as he left. When it was ready, he said, “Oh, JE is here!” Say what? Yes, JE and his wife J dropped by to drop off a motor for BF to evaluate. They drove up from Baton Rouge, about an hour away. Now, he gets those calls frequently: “I’ll drop by after while,” and they never show up. But not this time!
I was getting hungry, annoyed, and it was getting late, so I sat down by myself and had some of this delicious chicken. When I was finished, BF walked in and said, “I’ve got two more taste testers for you!” Again–say what? He invited this husband and wife to dinner!
Let me say at the outset that they are very nice people, and I certainly didn’t mind them coming to dinner. As a rule, I’m not really happy to get surprises. But this one was good, and they enjoyed themselves. They didn’t even know what I cooked up, unless he told them “chicken.”
Saltimbocca alla Romana
Dinner was from page 103, Saltimboca alla Romana, or “Jump-In-Your-Mouth Chicken.” That, Ms. Montillo says, is what “saltimboca” means. I also made the stir-fry broccoli from one of Suzanne Somers’ cookbooks to go with it.
But the chicken is the focus here, so I won’t bore you with the broccoli stir fry.
The recipe calls for 4 thin breast cutlets that are pounded out to a 1/8″ thickness. Of course, this was the day Walmart didn’t have any, so I asked BF to get whole boneless/skinless breast pieces. I cut them flat:
And pound them a little:
And then slice it in half:
Next up is a light salting (kosher salt is fine) and adding the next step:
Then top each with that paper-thin prosciutto:
Then dredge it in flour, and carefully shake off the excess. In this case, I used coconut flour, same stuff I used in Gumbo La Casa. I could have also used oat flour too, but this was I put my hands on first:
Grabbing the first dish I could find, I started coating the chicken, which is difficult when you’re trying to hold the prosciutto and sage in one place.
Cooking The Chicken
Once you’ve done all that, it’s time to fry them in a pan with two tablespoons of butter and three tablespoons olive oil:
Although the pan was big, I had to cook them two at a time:
At this point, BF started talking to me, and I forgot to take additional pictures. But what you end up with is this when they’re finished cooking:
Then you add to the pan the other two tablespoons of butter and the quarter cup of broth and let it boil. Put the chicken back in the pan for a couple of minutes in the sauce, and it’s ready.
Another thing I did differently was to put a cover on the pot so the chicken would cook faster. They were cooked and done, but didn’t have a “crust” on them like they would if the pan was uncovered. Didn’t affect the taste at all, and BF said it was just fine.
The Reaction–Dinner Is Served
So, this is what we all had for dinner:
Understand that these two drove an hour from Baton Rouge, and, as I was told later, were actually talking about where they were going to get some dinner when BF invited them in. They had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
They take two bites of the broccoli, and tell me that it’s really good. The husband takes a bite of the chicken, looks up and asks, “are you married?” We respond: “no.” Husband: “She cooks like this and you ain’t married? You better marry this one!” We were laughing at that one, but normally, it’s one of those topics not for discussion. We didn’t mind, but I think he’s going to take BF ring shopping one day.
Dinner was three thumbs up, plus I liked it too. BF and I knew what the broccoli tasted like, but nobody knew what the chicken would be like.
I didn’t make a dessert, but BF bought one of those frozen “chocolate silk” pies when he thought his cousin would be having dinner with us.
Well, I asked them to try a bit of my favorite Yeast Free Brownies. Once they did I explained that they were made with oat flour, coconut oil and erythrytol, but no sugar. Two thumbs up, and the husband said that you’d never know it didn’t have any sugar in it.
Then BF cut the pie and brought each of them a piece, which they didn’t refuse. Needless to say, J&J left very happy.
I’m sure J&J will be back for dinner again one day, so I’d better make sure I have a menu ready and in my pocket for them. Many thanks to them for sticking around for dinner, giving me another opinion, and great conversation that lasted a little later than we should have been up.
I’ve got another book to review and try, this one on Keto, so that will be in an upcoming blog post.
Meantime, if you’re interested in delicious Italian food you can make on a weeknight, quickly without a lot of ingredients, check out The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo, priced at under $20 (last time I checked.) You’ll be pleasantly surprised by a fast, delicious dinner that’s as good or better than any takeout you can find.
Can you believe it’s already July?
Hello, again, Dear Readers:
Here it is, the middle of July, and I’m still trying to find time to a) blog, b) exercise regularly, c) cook in advance more, and d) enjoy the summer while it’s here. Haven’t changed the futon cover to the “summer fern” one, either. I’m having enough trouble keeping up with the laundry.
It’s been a month since my last post, and although I have topics, I haven’t gotten around to writing about them. What I did write about last night was a legal principle called “The Fruit Of The Poisonous Tree Doctrine. “ It has nothing to do with agriculture. It’s a legal principle related to illegally obtained evidence that makes the evidence inadmissible in court.
And the truth is, I knew exactly what it was, because I’ve written about it before. So I’m writing this on the fly to send out so you know I haven’t forgotten to write.
What I am able to do is enjoy my Barista Cup, and use it just about every afternoon. A month later, I’m still thoroughly in love with it, and tell coffee lovers about it. However, Aunt Ruth let me know that she wasn’t a coffee drinker–but that’s OK, you know someone who is, right?
One of BF’s “car guy” friends, JJ, has finally purchased her own Kitchenaid Cold Brew Coffee Maker. I noticed it was on sale on their website recently, so I mentioned it on Facebook one day, and tagged her so she’d see it. She ordered one immediately, it arrived two days later. JJ and her kids love iced coffee, but not the expense of getting it in the coffee shop. We saw her at a 4th of July party, and she was so happy to finally have it. However, she said that she had to rescue it from her teenage son, who was under the impression that it was a Halloween decoration of a decapitated head. He’s 17, we have no idea where he got that idea.
BF, despite 22 years in the National Guard with two stints on active duty, including a year-long stint in Iraq, still doesn’t drink coffee.
Last weekend we were supposed to get a visit from BF’s former roommate. The occasion was the memorial service of regional radio personality John Walton, part of the duo of Walton & Johnson. He passed away on Monday, July 1, after being ill for some time.
He was receiving treatment, but decided to stop treatment for whatever it was he had, and he passed away a few days later. (They didn’t disclose what the treatment was for.) According to their producer, Ken Webster, he had a number of conditions such as arthritis, and had periods where he couldn’t walk very well. He also didn’t follow doctor’s orders well, scarfing down a BLT when he should have been eating better. “Producer Kenny,” as he’s called, began filling in when Walton took ill, and they were under the impression he would return to the airwaves on Monday July 8th. However, Ken will continue the show with radio veteran Steve Johnson, who supplies the character voices. They will continue the long-running show “as long as the listeners want it.” Fortunately, John Walton mentored Kenny very well, so he was able to pick up on air where Walton left off.
The Houston memorial service for John Walton was on Friday, July 12th in Katy, TX. Walton wanted a big New Orleans style sendoff, complete with a brass band and second-line. The New Orleans “celebration of life” was scheduled for Sunday, July 14th. Unfortunately, a guy named Barry decided to barge in that weekend, so the New Orleans memorial was rescheduled for July 28th. BF and I plan to attend.
BF’s former roommate was planning to attend the NOLA service, having been a huge fan of W&J. This guy met them on one or two occasions, and has the picture of the three of them plastered on his Facebook page. He called the show regularly, although less regularly since he moved to Pennsylvania. Roommate also called in when they did their first show after Walton’s passing on Wednesday the 3rd, and called in right before 8:00 am. Both BF and I heard it from our respective locations; I was home, he was on his way to work.
Roommate is planning to return with a friend to attend the memorial on the 28th, and they were able to reschedule from the 14th. I’m happy, because we’ll be able to give him the rest of his rubbish he left behind when he moved. But if and when he comes in the house, he will be in for a shock. Lots has changed since he’s been here, and since I’ve been here. I’m hoping the reaction is positive, but you never know.
Surviving Barry’s Visit
I really didn’t think it would be a big deal for us, and it wasn’t. East Texas got some rain out of it, but in Houston, it was more hit-and-miss. But BF was sure we were going to need the generator and the camping stove, so he bought extra batteries, gas bottles, and of course, a case of bottled water, which now sitting unwrapped under the kitchen counter. We moved things and battened down the hatches, waiting for this middle of July event.
Someone posted a warning meme on Facebook that if you eat all the hurricane snacks too early, you might not fit in the rescue basket. Another said to post a picture of yourself without the filters so that when your body floats by, everyone will know who it is.
July Storm Prep
We gathered up all the flashlights, bought extra batteries, and put them all on the table. I even made a pot of what I called Hurricane Crockpot Beans. (Of course, I forgot to take a picture of it.) Two cups of baby green lima beans, some cut bacon ends, some cumin and coriander, and water, of course. Cooked it all night on Friday the 12th, so we would have food on Saturday during the hurricane. What did we do? We ate beans and rice all day!
Barry was like a bad date that arrives late and wouldn’t end (another FB meme.) He’s making landfall in the morning, then late morning, then mid-afternoon, and finally Saturday night, he showed up onshore. We got the visit sometime on Sunday, mid-morning, when the power went out. . .for fifteen minutes. Seriously. That was it. It flickered a few times, and out it went. Didn’t even rain that much. I figured I’d be doing all those things I didn’t have time for when I had power. Nope. BF wasn’t even awake yet when I told him. By the time he started shuffling around and became somewhat upright, the power came back on. Oh, well.
I subscribe to a number of blogs, including those related to working from home, copywriting, marketing, and law. One of those blogs is The Work At Home Woman, written by Holly Reisen Hanna. She recently published her book on time management, and announced it in her blog. I planned to get it when it was released, until I got an email from the publisher asking if I’d like a free review copy in exchange for a review on Amazon.
A free book? Thank you!
I got the book the day before it was released, and I read it as fast as I could, then left a lengthy review. I also notified the publishing company that it was posted and live.
And More Books
On Monday, I got another email from the publisher. . .we have more books to review, are you interested? I clicked on the link and saw. . .two cookbooks. No kidding, two new free cookbooks. I clicked on both, and they arrived today. They are The 5-Ingredient Italian Cookbook by Francesca Montillo, and Keto In 30 Minutes, by Jen Fisch of KetoInTheCity. I’ve never heard of this blog (which means nothing) but I might have to check it out. She’s actually published her fourth book called Keto In An Instant. However, I do not have an Instant Pot, nor do I really want one.
I already know what recipes I want to try from the Italian cookbook just by flipping through it, and I think BF will enjoy the chicken bundles if I don’t use the word “Braciole.”
In addition, I have also purchased Laura Pennington Briggs’ new book on starting a freelance writing business, and participated on the launch team. I didn’t get any money for it, but she did send out some great free stuff. As much help as she has given me, I felt like I owed her one.
All three of these books arrived today. I’m way behind on reading!
I am still enjoying the Gazpacho that I wrote about last time; I make it when I run out and have it at about lunchtime. It’s as delicious as the first time I made it.
I was so happy to find out how good it was that I wrote an email to Ina Garten, explaining that I tried it, mentioning Red Dwarf and Gazpacho soup is served cold! Included a link to the clip and warned that it was frat-boy humor. About three weeks later, I got a short email from one of her assistants. She said that Ina was “delighted” to read about how I got to trying the Gazpacho and that I liked it, and sent her best wishes.
What do you want to bet that they watched the YouTube video?
Until Next Time
I’ve got to get it together and find time to blog. Maybe I should set a time, like Monday morning, and get started. I do some marketing on Monday, but like most writers, I’m always marketing, really. So I’ll have to figure something out. I have more to talk about. And with the new cookbooks, new recipes to try and report.