Monday, July 13, 2020

Dinner Disasters

Hank's pizza

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I have now cooked 124 dinners in a row. As of today. We purchase gift cards from restaurants, because we love them, but I am cooking. I have made really delicious things, taking chances, trying new ideas, experimenting. Jettisoning my no-carb regime. I mean, it’s. ..serious. I had a bagel. I had carrots. I made chicken and broccoli and ziti. I made pizza! (Twice.) Here is one effort.

 I had oatmeal. I had a pita with peanut butter. We have eaten our own home grown lettuce and tomatoes and green beans, and we have cucumbers going nuts. It is incredibly gratifying. (I am trying to look at the bright side. ) I make dinner. Jonathan makes lunch. We collaborate on breakfast.
Some of the dinners are gorgeous. I mean—Insta worthy. Here's one.
Hank's scallops


But one of them? Well, disaster. You know spaghetti squash? It’s incredibly cool. and when you cook it and scoop out the insides, it divides just like spaghetti. That’s amazing! Incredible. How does it know? SO much fun.

Anyway, spaghetti squash with a bunch of gorgeous herbs and spices and topped with spaghetti sauce and grated parmesan ought to be delicious, right?

Maybe. But it was—disgusting. I mean—pitiful. No photos exist. Probably a good thing.
Happily it’s now the bar I have to exceed, which is quite low. “This chicken thing is delicious, honey,” Jonathan says. “Better than
Hank's chicken thing
spaghetti squash!” I crow.

How about you, reds and readers? Any dinner disasters?


HALLIE EPHRON: We’ve had exactly one takeout meal since early March, so I hear you! I tried spaghetti squash once. That was enough. I think the name over-promises.

 I haven’t had any disasters; more what I’d call disappointments. Because when you’re not going anywhere, dinner is one of the highlights of the day. Big disappointment was a rack of pork ribs that I left on the barbecue one minute too long. Also sugar snap peas that went from tough and inedible to overcooked without an in-between.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Spaghetti squash, ugh. Maybe you could do something interesting with it if you didn't try to use it like spaghetti, but I think it's just weird. And I am a big vegetable lover! I cooked every day for the first couple of months, then we graduated to getting takeout once a week when more restaurants started doing curbside pickup. Some meals have been better than others, but I think my biggest fail--I hate to say it--was Julia and Celia's peanut noodles. I must have done something wrong. I used soba noodles instead of spaghetti, so maybe that wasn't a good thing...

LUCY BURDETTE: I don’t know why it seems harder than it used to to plan and cook meals. It’s not like I didn’t cook before and now I’ve been forced into it! But everything has to be planned out, every grocery store trip, every recipe, and that’s starting to weigh a little heavy. Although in truth, I think the food is a stand in for general exhaustion from this pandemic.

The happy thing is that my neighbor discovered a personal chef who cooks one meal a night from Monday to Friday and then delivers. She sends out the menu on Fridays and we pick which ones we want, usually one or two a week. I always look forward to that day, when I get to eat someone else’s cooking! This week it will be Picadillo tacos for Tuesday. Yay! And PS, send me your spaghetti squash! It’s delicious with simply butter, salt and pepper, and Parmesan cheese.

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Feeling nervous because I have a spaghetti squash waiting in the frig… what can I say, it was cheap, and I was seduced by the colorful pictures online of gorgeous meals made with them. Maybe, combining Lucy’s ideas, I’ll try Picadillo on TOP of the squash.

Because Guest Son is a vegetarian, I’m expanding my repertoire, which is both good and bad. On the upside, I’m actually interested in cooking again, and enjoying looking for recipes that work with what I have. The downside is, unlike old favorites I can make in my sleep, I can’t guarantee everything will be a success. There was the rice dish that promised “bright, fresh flavor” but was so bland we wound up covering it with cheese and hot sauce. There was the couscous I accidentally poured too much water in, making sort of a grain soup. And, in a reverse of the rice dish, there was a vegetarian Tex-Mex dish I made, following the ingredients to the teaspoon, only to discover it was SO hot none of us could stand it. (We have very low tolerance for heat in New England.)

But the only thing that was a disaster falls squarely on my own impatience. I saw a recipe for a chickpea curry that sounded delicious, and we had all the ingredients. Except, of course, I don’t have any canned beans - just lots and lots of dry. “Garbanzos soften really fast, don’t they?” I said to myself. “I’ll put them on to boil and let them soak a few hours and it will be fine.” Friends, it wasn’t fine. I bulled ahead with the recipe, engaging in magical thinking that somehow the process of making the curry would finish softening the beans. It did not. The rice was fluffy, the vegetables were delicious, the curry was spiced just right - but it was like eating rocks. Lesson learned: SOAK OVERNIGHT.

DEBS: Julia, the Instant Pot is supposed to make the best chickpeas ever. I haven't tried them yet, as hubby doesn't like them, but they are on my list of things to experiment with. All the other beans I've cooked have been fabulous, and most require no soaking. Might be worth the investment for you! 

RHYS BOWEN: John or I have cooked every single dinner since March, apart from a couple of blissful evenings with our daughter when we were still in Arizona. Can I say I am heartily sick of my own food! John is quite content and also happy to cook but it involves using every bowl, pot and pan in the kitchen which makes the clean up daunting. Highlight so far was a cooked chicken from the local deli, after which John made a curry. Yum.
 No real disasters except when I was doing a Zoom meeting and asked him to put frozen fish and chips in the oven   He turned on  the convection, cooked it on a copper wire basket so it cooked way before the time on the packet. Result totally dry fish. Shriveled chips. 

And a disappointment for me after an hour of being witty and wise with a book club. I’m about ready to risk take out!

JENN MCKINLAY: I don’t want to be all braggy, but I haven’t cooked a meal in 103 days. Out of sheer stir craziness, Hub, who’s been working at home, decided to take over all of the cooking. Previously, we always split this chore, I cooked Mon-Thurs, we did take-out on Fri, and he cooked Sat and Sun. But as my deadlines loomed and I had no time and the Hub was restless without any gigs, he decided cooking would be his thing. Amen! I was more than happy to hand over the spatula and butcher knife. The crazy thing is that he is a rogue experimenter, whereas I was stuck in the margins of what the entire family would like, Hub doesn’t care and, shocker, the Hooligans have been happy to eat whatever he cooks. So, we’ve had Greek spaghetti, shrimp scampi, Korean bbq chicken, fish tacos, chicken and white wine mushroom sauce, bbq ribs, Shakshuka, and Mediteranean chicken...the list goes on and on. His birthday just happened and I bought him a chef’s apron and a slick set of knives. We want to encourage this burgeoning culinary gift! Also, amazingly, there’ve been no disasters -- yet.


HANK:  Jenn! Are you kidding me? Roberta! A personal chef? Clearly I am living wrong. And yes, I can see that treating spaghetti squash like SQUASH and not like SPAGHETTI might be the key.  Brilliant.

How about you, Reds and Readers?

And Red Hot deals! If you are behind on the Key West series and read e-books? You are in luck! Lucy Burdette's DEATH ON THE MENU and A DEADLY FEAST are on sale. Menu for $1.99 and Feast for $2.99. Hurry over to your favorite bookseller and grab your copies!  
And Hank's THE MURDER LIST is $1.99! Wherever you buy your ebooks--grab it now!


















96 comments:

  1. We try to get curbside takeout from one of the local restaurants at least once a week because we want to be supportive, but I actually like to cook, so it hasn’t been much of a chore. [And Stewart’s Drive-In is open . . . I have to choose between lobster roll and lobster mac and cheese, so we usually go at least twice!]

    I always pass up the spaghetti squash in the grocery [and the zoodles] . . . if it’s good with butter and Parmesan, I’ll have to think about trying it.

    We’ve had no disasters . . . a couple of meals that were sort of “meh” that we decided we’d never try again, but most everything has been quite good. [Right at the top of my list: warm chocolate pudding. Yum!] Our favorite meal? John votes for Seafood Newberg over angel hair spaghetti with cheesy garlic bread. I’m voting for either Honey Butter Chicken or Shepherd’s Pie . . . both were delicious.

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  2. I don't cook, so no disasters here. Take out and TV dinners for me.

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  3. I love to cook so this prolonged lockdown allowed me to try many new recipes. Although I baked like crazy using my own sourdough starter and discard for the first time (big success), I also wanted to try other baking recipes without the starter or dry yeast.

    The honey beer bread I made was a total dud recipe. I had a leftover can of beer in the fridge from a year ago. The bread was dense and not that appetizing and ended up in the compost bin pretty quickly.

    From the comments above, zoodles are a better pasta substitute than spaghetti squash. And zucchini are huge and plentiful this time of year. But I am like Hank and have jettisoned my low-carb regime for now.

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    1. I tried beer bread, too - from a mix. Leaden.

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    2. Your food photos on Facebook have been amazing Grace!

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    3. Thanks, Lucy. Glad you are enjoying them. I am a bit food-obsessed lately, lol.

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    4. And your garden! Inspirational! Are you finding you're using more herbs than you did before? Or choosing dishes around them?

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    5. Thanks, Hank, so kind! It is fun growing your own food, isn't it? I love seeing your Sungold tomatoes, green beans and cucumbers.

      I always grew herbs here in Ottawa and Toronto to use in my cooking, so not much has changed. What is different is the amount of salad greens, microgreens (radish, broccoli) and sprouting (alfalfa and mung bean) that I am growing and eating this summer.

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    6. SO nice! And it is so differently delicious..

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  4. Don't let the "spaghetti" part of spaghetti squash fool you. It only LOOKS like spaghetti. It's quite good with lots of butter and garlic and some Parmesan, but no pasta sauce, please.

    I think I've done take-out three times since mid-March. I'm doing farm share for the second year and love it. Fresh veggies every week, so my meal plan revolves around whatever the local organic farm gives me each Friday.

    I can't think of any real duds but only because Hubby and I will eat just about anything. And I, too, have ditched the diet. When I first decided to throw calorie counting to the wind, I foolishly thought this would all be over in a few weeks, a month at the most. Now, I'm starting to think I should start being more careful about my food choices or it's going to take all of 2021 to drop the pounds I've picked up from emotional eating.

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    1. Yeah--it's a balance. J and I are not gaining weight, knock on wood, I think because we do so much more walking.

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  5. I don't do a lot of actual cooking anymore so I don't have dinner disasters to tell you about. I'm pretty easily satisfied with a sandwich and a bowl of soup.

    Plus, I do get takeout. It's easier. No muss, no fuss for me.

    Of course, I'm not going to go to Red Robin anymore for burgers because they can't follow the simplest of cooking instructions. They always ask if you want some pink or no pink in your burgers. I always tell them I want my burgers burnt until they look like hockey pucks.

    And the one time I ordered takeout from them during this cluster of a situation we are all living through, the burgers were as red in the middle as the red that is on their building.

    I mean, what the hell is so hard to understand about a cooking instruction of BURN IT!

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    1. At last! Somebody else who likes burgers burnt to a hockey puck! Thank you, Jay, for validating a taste I picked up from my mother.

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    2. Gigi,

      The main reason I have my burgers burnt is because in all my years of burger eating, I've only found one person who knew how to make my burger the way I liked it without burning it. She was able to cook it perfectly, making it juicy/greasy with just the right amount of melting to the cheese and crispy not waxy bacon. But she's been retired for 20 years. So it is just easier to have these people who barely know how to follow cooking instructions burn the bejeezus out of the patty.

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  6. He's not in Jenn's Hub's class yet, but my older nephew turned out a delicious salmon with Tuscan sauce for supper last night! Apparently, have phone, will search for recipes :-) And that's fine with me--he also did an amazing chicken alfredo (I would've licked the sauce off my plate if I'd been eating alone). So yeah, really encouraging him--happy to do early bird grocery runs, etc. And that spaghetti squash? Fooled me, too, just once. But I can see using it as a simple side with butter, parmesan. And Jay, I get really cranky, too, when a place I frequent (hometown bar/grill) can't remember what well-done means. Nothing worse than a take-out burger you can only nibble around the edges because everything else is red.

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    1. It's fun to use the internet--I'll enter what ingredients I want to use, and it comes up with a great recipe. Who'd have thought of mustard crusted chicken with balsamic glazed carrot?

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    2. If it's under-cooked, pop it in the microwave.

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  7. I love all these stories! Hugh has been sharing the cooking, but not innovating. He really likes to make an enormous pot of chili - and then we have to keep eating chili. I haven't been getting too innovative - because that would mean making more trips to the store, which I've been staying out of except for senior shopping hour every ten days or so. I did successfully make Julia and Celia's noodles - twice!

    But lately I've been venturing into our local farm stand. They are careful with everything and limit shoppers to three, masked. I got some tiny new potatoes, which my Quebecois ex-brother-in-law called little hailstones. They were amazing. And one Friday I checked out a tent at the far end of the parking lot - it was fresh-off-the-boat seafood from Portsmouth. They take preorders but also had some just for sale. Now I've signed up and am preordering (and prepaying) every week. We had super fresh scallops last Friday, plus a pound of haddock I made a fish stew out of.

    My cooking fail? Before all this started, I made beautiful, delicious sourdough bread. Once everyone else started baking it, I think they (y'all) stole my mojo. After four batches of bricks, I have given up. I can't explain it!

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    1. Oh no, that is so weird, Edith! I hope your sourdough bread mojo comes back soon!

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    2. Scallops! We made seared scallops that were AMAZING. You just have to be patient, and DON'T move them.

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    3. Hugh grills them on skewers. To die for.

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  8. Wonderful stories and so many successes! Spaghetti Squash is one of those things I have never managed to make edible either. What is up with that. It looks so wonderful in pix!

    No disasters here either, but we are in the midst of a move (movers today) and have been living from the freezer and pantry for what seems like years - do you know that Chef Boyardee is actually edible when you are hungry? We buy it every year for hurricane stores but have never tasted it until the past few weeks. Not bad - better than a steady diet of pretzels and pickles!

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    1. We used to feed the kids spaghettios! oh the horror...

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    2. Beefaroni! So nice and orange. :-) Keep us posted on the move! xxx

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    3. I can still hear the jingle, Lucy. Hank, I will do so, I'll also wave as we pass Boston, be on the lookout!

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  9. Hank, like you, I've been in the kitchen endlessly. Irwin does not cook. Not even on the grill. My fault. I've spoiled him. So, unlike Hank, we've been doing take-out once or twice a week since our local restaurants opened for take-out in April. Before that we'd been buying gift cards to our favorites in the hopes they'd survive this pandemic so we could eat at their restaurants again some day.
    I remember one conversation with the friendly receptionist as I was ordering dinner from a much loved venue. I'd just added a generous tip and then asked if they could please send someone over to clear the table and wash the dishes afterwards. The laugh was genuine!
    As for failures, not so much, but minimum experimentation here. I'd say that the big pot of chili needs to be divided and part of it frozen right away.
    I bake bread and I do bake cakes and cookies. They also get partly frozen. For me, this is not a time to go up another size, so I am trying not to eat big meals and only eat dessert some nights. Enjoy reading about what's cooking. Speaking of that, Roberta, one of my dearest friends is a personal chef. She is also an amazing pastry chef. I wonder...?

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    1. My freezer is so full..and I can't decide whether to use what's in it, or use the new stuff.

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    2. My freezer is so full! I think I may ditch some of the things I bought at the beginning of lockdown, like the frozen broccoli, that we are not likely to eat...

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    3. Don’t pitch anything. Make soup. Xox

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  10. I have always enjoyed cooking and for the first eight weeks of the pandemic, I played a little game of never repeating a dinner. (Not counting the times I had generated more leftovers than were going to get used up as lunches.) About five weeks in the carryout places opened up, so we mixed in about one of those a week. But still, I had a stretch there where I cooked 50+ different recipes. It was fun. For a while. Eventually, though, it just felt like work -- so I quit that game.

    Now, we're probably up to two nights a week of carryout. And occasionally the cook (that would be me) declares a fend-for-yourself night. I've gone back to a rotation of the old favorites, with newer recipes mixed in when it feels good to me. In other words, I realized I was stressing myself out for no good reason and have made adjustments.

    I think Lucy nailed it when she said the food is a stand-in for the general exhaustion from this pandemic. If that is true, then I think we all need to figure out what we can do for relief and rejuvenation, because the pandemic isn't going away for a while.

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    1. Sounds like you have this figured out! And Jonathan, weirdly, will not eat leftovers for lunch. We have been married 23 years now, and I never know that! It seems like SUCH a good solution!

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    2. I know there are a lot of people who have issues with leftovers. I can only say thank God I didn't marry one of them. In normal times Bob eats out at lunch. (And he HATES to cook, which I go along with because he washes dishes.) If I had to be providing some novel meal at lunchtime as well as dinner, I couldn't take it. Fortunately, he's fine with it, as long as they are not from the dinner immediately before. So we skip one day before I bring it out as a lunch.

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  11. On weight gain... I just had my annual physical and my doctor (in mask and face shield) commented that I had not gained what she called the Covid-19-pounds. I must be snacking less.

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    1. I KNOW I've gained the COVID 5, and have my physical next week...

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    2. Yeah, I think that's a good explanation. We have nothing like "snacks," and it may be--thinking about this now--I'm making our portions are smaller. Hmm.

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    3. I haven't gained the Covid-19 pounds, either. Have maybe lost a little, by not being tempting by things out that I wouldn't eat at home.

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    4. I’ve actually lost a little because John and I are walking twice a day now. And not eating out

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    5. Yes, walking every day here, too, but I have to get out earlier and earlier because of the heat.

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  12. We always mostly cooked, so things have not been much different. We bought an Instant Pot right before the lock down happened, and that really upped our game. No real duds, but we've had meals we weren't that impressed with (one was a fish, I think).

    We started doing take-out once a week ages ago to support local businesses. We actually went *out* to a local bbq place (outside seating) before our latest mini-lockdown (county, not state). I was in New York last weekend and every restaurant offers takeout/delivery and my dad said they are slowly getting back to "normal" eating. Our county switched to outside seating only last weekend and I noticed sooo many restaurants in my town that have added or expanded their outside seating capacity, even taking up parking lot space!

    But now that it's just us (mostly - The Boy isn't home most nights and he leaves for college in late August), we're ready for some eating out.

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    1. Yes, around here, some neighborhoods are closing their main streets to traffic, so the restaurants can take over the whole space.

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  13. Spaghetti squash! It's a summer staple for us, and as Lucy Roberta said, salt, pepper and butter with a lot of parmesan cheese. We like it with Italian sausage, peppers and onions, but then we like anything with sausage, peppers, and onions.

    In four months, we've had take out for dinner maybe three times. If we are out and about at lunch time, we might go to a drive thru. I'm not much on meat but the BK Impossible Burger is very good.

    We had an anniversary a couple of weeks ago and made reservations at our favorite bistro, famous for its Steak Frite. But we were worried about eating inside and it was rainy. Julie called, and the chef said he could do this meal with instructions on how to finish at home. It was a bounding success! I must admit I had my doubts, but we did exactly as he said, and it was perfect.

    I am genetically unable to cook for two, so whatever meal we have on Monday will show up Tuesday as leftovers. And maybe Wednesday!

    My current favorite vegetarian dish is Ellie Krieger's Chickpea Farro Stew. This is completely wonderful, and it is one of the few recipes I actually follow! Julia, perfect for your crew and vegetarian if you use vegetable broth.

    https://www.elliekrieger.com/recipe/chickpea-farro-stew/

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    1. Ha ha, just like I am not able to tweak a recipe to serve only one! So, lots of leftovers are eaten or stashed in the chest freezer.

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    2. I'd love to know the finishing instructions, Ann!

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    3. Hank, the chef cooked the steak, shared one as it was a 12 ounce chunk of meat. It was beautifully seasoned and seared. We told him we wanted it rare, so somehow he figured out that ten minutes in a 400 degree over would get it right. He also instructed us to put the frites in with the steak the last ten minutes. It was all really perfect. We also shared a roasted beet salad. We were unable to eat all of everything. Tell me why our restaurants want to serve such large portions?

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    4. Ann, Rick won't eat chickpeas. I wonder if you could substitute white beans?

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    5. Deborah, any nice bean should do. The taste and texture will be slightly different, but it shouldn't matter.

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    6. What Libby said. However, I don’t like chickpeas either. Except this recipe, which is was past outstanding!

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  14. I attempted spaghetti squash once and gave it an unequivocal D minus. We've transitioned to summer food (chicken salad, chicken baked with peaches, shrimp with angel hair pasta), salads, fruit for dessert. No take-out, no restaurants. Every version of Trader Joe's frozen pizza.

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    1. Chicken baked with peaches? HOW??? xxoo

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    2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/recipes/baked-chicken-peaches/15961/

      Washington Post recipe. So good!

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    3. Thanks for that link, Margaret. Looks yummy!

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  15. I really don't like a lot of stringy fiber in my vegetables, so spaghetti squash has been a non-starter for me from the beginning. I salute those of you who are brave enough to have tried it.

    I am the one and only cook around here because the border collies are smart, but not that smart and, besides, they like everything raw. I generally cook something large, like a pot roast, and feast off it all week, with pot roast redux, followed by beef tips and rice or pasta, followed by tacos, followed by gotta-go soup. This worked particularly well when I was working away from the house all week, and only had time to cook on the weekends.

    What I have discovered, now that I'm home and can set my own schedule, is that I eat a lot less because I only eat when I'm hungry. When I was at the office all day I ate on the schedule dictated by my work: something for breakfast that would hold me until around 2 pm; then lunch, which was often a sit-down entree if I went to lunch with a colleague; a late supper, since I usually got home around 7 pm, if it wasn't a concert night. No time to cook, so that last meal was usually a sandwich, or leftovers from the weekend.

    Now I generally cook a nice meal for dinner, but not at restaurant portions, and I'm far more likely to include fresh veggies and salad than I did in the days when my "crisper" was where fresh veggies bought on the weekend withered away during the week. "Breakfast" is more likely to come around lunchtime, as I'm not a morning person. I'm drinking more water and tea than soda, and yesterday, when I was out helping Deb pick up broken branches in her back yard (properly masked and distanced) I thought my favorite old jeans were going to fall right off me. I'm not a person to weigh myself, but I think I may be losing weight. I'm cool with that.

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    1. I was just thinking the same thing, Gigi! Yay, you!!

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    2. Yes, I agree...I know our portions are smaller than restaurants, and that's so revealing! xx

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  16. We have now officially reached the time of the year when "Don't heat up the kitchen" is the top of my menu planning list!! Last night I cooked homemade pizza (on the pizza stone) on the gas grill. Tonight, grilled salmon and some fresh black-eyed peas. I'm wondering if I could bake cornbread in the cast iron skillet on the gas grill. Has anyone tried that? The Instant Pot is also great for not heating up the kitchen, or the cook.

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    1. My go-to on too-hot-to-cook nights is cucumber yogurt soup! Just whirl garlic, lemon, lots of chopped cukes, yogurt and all the fresh herbs you've got in the blender.

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    2. Yum, Sarah! Let us know how the cornbread works,Debs.

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  17. I had a fried rice disaster recently! Fried rice should be crisped and flavorful -- mine was wet and soggy and bland. Ugh. I think I'm just tired of cooking. Even recipes that usually delight seem boring. It's such a long drive to get takeout that we almost never do it, but I think you all may have inspired me to get some tonight!

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    1. I just finished your new book and it was great! I’m looking forward to next one. Excellent character development and a great story.

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    2. Thank you, Susan! I so appreciate that!

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    3. Yes, maybe your weariness seeped into the rice. Or maybe the rice is weary, too...xo

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    4. The rice was so weary it gave up.

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  18. Hank, your pizza is gorgeous. You could have made a fathead pizza, eliminating a Lot of carbs. My disaster (lately) is making lasagna using cabbage instead of pasta noodles. I didn't pre-cook the cabbage enough and it never did cook even after being microwaved! And, yes, spaghetti squash makes a wonderful squash casserole with lots of cheese a la mac and cheese.

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    1. What's a fathead pizza??? The crust of this was a crisped-up tortilla!

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  19. My Mother was an adventurer in the kitchen. Spaghetti squash first began to appear in the grocery stores in our small town in the '70s. inevitably she tried it. In the microwave. It exploded. Imagine poking your hands into strings of gelatinous goo dangling in dense curtains. Horror.

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    1. Oh. My. God.

      That sounds like my first cake in the microwave: rock hard on one side and oozingly raw on the other. The '70s were definitely a time of microwave exploration!

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    2. Oh, I honestly wish I could have seen that. HOW HILARIOUS. I mean, terrible.

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  20. Jenn, the Hooligans are old enough that their tastes are starting to broaden. That happened to all three of mine, thank goodness! Now if only my husband's would.

    Hank, and anyone else who wants gluten-free and half the carbs of regular pasta, try the Banza brand. It's made from garbanzo beans, and it's the best non-wheat pasta I've tried.

    Julia, if you have a CrockPot try cooking beans in it. I've had excellent success that way. (I'm not buying another appliance, a la Instant Pot).

    Spaghetti squash is okay, but it's not spaghetti, and it's too bad it ever was given that status. But as Grace says, Zoodles are a wonderful substitute for spaghetti, and you can buy them frozen and cook them in a skillet. So easy. I keep a couple different kinds in the freezer, not just zucchini. They also come in carrot and butternut squash.

    We have only had five or six meals from restaurants, and I've grown weary of cooking. Steve will grill meats and fish, but I still have to come up with the rest of the meal, usually. Last night I picked a big bunch of Swiss chard, sauteed it with a little bit of onion, added some chopped basil long enough to wilt it, then folded that and some cheese into omelets. Dinner. If you want something else with it, you're on your own.

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    1. Off to look for Banza. Clever name, too! Thank you!

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  21. Ugh. Just ugh. I deleted everything I wrote because it was just complaining. So we'll ignore all that. My intro to spaghetti squash was entertaining. My sister-in-law made some years ago and I thought it was clever. So I bought one. Its shell was so thick I couldn't cut it. I sent it outside with my son wielding a machete. Mission accomplished. Last spaghetti squash I ever bought. My son hasn't forgotten it either.

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    1. WHOA. That's a funny image...xoox

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    2. ANd I think I stabbed mine with a skewer a few times, and cooked it whole. More's the pity.

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  22. Ah, spaghetti squash . . . it's like carob for chocolate, the substitution doesn't work, best to treat it as itself. First, Pat's issue with cutting it is resolved by just piercing it, then cooking whole. It's much easier to cut up then. It is a good addition to soups, side dish with seasoning, and . . . (hold your hat) WW has a recipe for a mock coconut pie, the fulfillment of any childish dream of dessert as a vegetable. Summertime, though, is not the time for ovens, so I'm eating simple meals, and today thinking about picking up lasagna from Valenti's Meats, where they will deliver my order straight to my car, as will Anthony's Produce. Customer service in 2020.

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    1. Mock coconut pie from spaghetti squash? That sounds..pitiful, and talk about mocking..xoxo

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  23. Hank, your food pictures are wonderful, and I'm sure the dishes tasted as great as they look. I liked the idea of spaghetti squash, but when I had it in a restaurant (way back last year), I didn't care for it. I'll stick with my yummy pasta I love.

    I've rather slowed down from cooking. The first few months, March into June, I was baking and cooking up a storm. But, I was also enjoying doing it because my mother-in-law enjoyed it so much, and she was in a decline, so the little joys my food gave her made me happy, too. When she died the first of June, I was kind of tired of cooking and baking, so I've cut back. While I was in that zone though, we had chicken casseroles and baked spaghetti and meat loaf and chili and other comforting dishes. Plus, I fixed all kinds of cakes, from chocolate to strawberry to blueberry. It might be because it's summer, but my appetite isn't up to what it was then. I was surprised when I went in to have my colonoscopy last week, and you know they just have to weigh you. I hadn't gained any weight, maybe even lost a couple of pounds. That was a shocker because I thought I had gained many pounds.

    As I read through the post and comments, I was interested in the husbands who have gotten the cooking bug during this time. My husband has, too, especially since I've cut back on my cooking, but like your John, Rhys, he makes rather a mess that gets on my nerves a bit. When I cook, I try to clean up as I go along, but that's not his style. I've learned that it's best if I stay out of
    the kitchen while he cooks. He likes to fix salmon, but he doesn't really know how, and so we're trying to sort out the best way for that. Hank, didn't you say you were having salmon? How do you fix it?

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    1. Broiled with pesto! Sometimes with dill butter. Or broiled with cold dill sauce: sour cream, lemon, garlic and dill.

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  24. Oops, it was Debs, not Hank, that is fixing salmon tonight. So, Debs, can you give me your method/recipe?

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    1. Kathy, I cook it all sorts of ways. Although I don't usually broil--and definitely not in this heat! Poaching is lovely, and I've discovered some great Instant Pot recipes. Sounds unlikely, but you just bring the pot up to pressure then turn it off. You get very moist, tender fish. But tonight I think I'm cooking it on the grill, with a soy sesame marinade I got at Trader Joe's. I do a stir fried salmon red curry that we love, and salmon cakes from Robin Ellis's cookbook are a staple on our menu. Most people use canned salmon but fresh is delicious and really easy.

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  25. I'm totally asking the Hub to tackle spaghetti squash. Will report back!

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  26. I just want to know why all the cooking chores automatically fall to the women. Julia, does Vegan Boy ever cook his special diet to intro everyone else to its deliciousness, or does he just say, "Hey, I'm vegan," and let you figure it out for him? Kudos to Jenn's Men for taking that burden off her.

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    1. If it helps, my mother did the cooking when we were little, but when my dad got shifted to the 8-4 shift as a cop, he started doing most of the cooking. My mom would still cook some meals but it was mostly my dad and when he died, I took over doing a lot of the cooking as my mother decided to make sure I knew how to cook a variety of meals.

      I had about 9 different meals in my wheelhouse. Nothing fancy but you wouldn't starve. Oh, and I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a number of years (with some help of course) and I did Christmas dinner for a couple of years until my sister took that over.

      These days, I don't give a damn so there's only 3 meals I bother to cook and those are rare occasions for the most part.

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    2. That is..probably complicated. Maybe..:-) because we want the food to be good? JOKING! SOrt of.

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  27. No disasters because if it's not burned or raw, I will eat it. My friend and I went out to lunch and ordered the same burger but mine was medium rare, and hers was medium well. Even though she asked the server which was which, she got the wrong one. Mine was delicious but she took hers home to microwave. At least they had tons of French fries on the plate.

    Except for that meal and one delivery and one take out, I've been cooking. Tomorrow I'm thinking of getting something at the Giant's take out area. I also bought things at the farmer's market to heat up. Stay safe and well.

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  28. I cook pretty much every night, so my disasters are numerous. My family won't let me forget the lasagne soup and my husband still hasn't forgiven me for the flax seed crust pizza.

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  29. My daughter and I have been splitting the cooking, and our room mate does the cleaning. I bought myself a new 36" Blackstone Grill with Air Fryer for Mother's Day and have been doing a lot of cooking (and eating) outside. My daughter (who is 35) has always hated mushrooms but has been trying to expand her palate and so I made grilled, marinated portabello mushrooms. They have become a favorite for all of us. I make a bunch of extras in hopes they will be around to throw into a big salad for dinner or my take to work lunch. Trying to make extra through this so I have lunch at work has been difficult. I finally realized I need to put aside what I want the next day, then tell them dinner is ready!!

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  30. omg, Jenn, your hubby! Mine cooks a lot too, but I don't have as many bragging rights as you quite :) You all make me laugh. I don't know why it's so hard to cook now, but it is. Maybe it's the lack of the respite we used to get from even the occasional meal out?

    Keep on cooking and writing, Reds! I'm with y'all.

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