Sued51's Blog

{January 25, 2016}   Monday Menu Mix-Up

Pear and Cheese Wrap

My roll-up before I added the lettuce.

Sometimes I just get tired of “breakfast” foods. I am definitely not a Seinfeld type; no eating “cereal” for dinner for me. So every once in a while I need a menu mix-up: something for breakfast that is not traditional breakfast food.

A friend sent me some pears from Harry and David for Christmas. They took forever (well, a couple of weeks) to get to me. When they finally arrived, they were a little worse for their travel adventures. I was grateful for the gift, but I thought I should let my friend know. So, Harry and David sent out another set of pears, which I received after Christmas. Thus, I have been eating a lot of pears!

The other morning I put a twist on things and decided to have a pear and cheese roll-up for breakfast. The pear was wonderfully juicy and ripe. I had one spinach wrap left in the fridge to use up, so I cut up my pear, shredded some extra sharp cheese, put a little pepper on it to give it a little zing, and added a couple of pieces of red leaf lettuce. It was delicious, and kept me from being hungry for a few hours.

My experiment made me think: why hasn’t anyone developed these types of breakfast sandwiches? (At least not at any breakfast establishments I have been to.) I was thinking how good waldorf salad might be in wrap form…mmmm.

{March 13, 2015}   Tidbits from Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe's shopping bag, supermarket, Trader Joe's

Shopping Bag

I love Trader Joe’s. I don’t do all my shopping there, but I love their image, their marketing, and some of the interesting products they carry. And when I go there, I can honestly say the employees make it fun.

I usually shop there for specific products, one of which is Trader Joe’s Rustic bread. Anyone who has been there knows that they have a station where someone is cooking up samples featuring at least one of their products. Last sunday a woman was making a “special” grilled cheese sandwich: one with Dubliner cheese (a mild cheddar they are featuring for St. Patrick’s Day) and fig butter using the Rustic Bread. Right up my alley! I thought it was delicious! So…the Dubliner Cheese and Fig Butter joined the Rustic Bread in my bag. I hung out there for a bit by the little sample coffee cups to watch other people’s reaction to the sandwich and butt in, encouraging them to try it. I laughed and told the lady I was helping her sell it. 🙂 While I stood there, she was telling me other recipes she has tried. She recommended making meatballs in Red Pepper Jelly…mmm…I love red pepper jelly too!

At one point a male employee came over to talk to the woman about a trip she had made to the Providence Bruins game the day before. Apparently her nephew plays for either the Bruins or their opponent, and she said 25 family members went to the game and “he got quite a bit of ice time.” She said they had a lot of fun. The male employee said his niece (or little sister?…I didn’t listen well enough…) was going to be in some kind of production being held in Worcester. He said he had a “gig” that night but he was going to try to make it. Ah, I thought, grocery worker by day, band member by night? My mind recorded all of this for a future story (or maybe just this blog).

I proceeded to the register, and talked to the very pregnant young woman in front of me in line who was trying to control her toddler. I had put my shopping bag down on the floor and he was very interested in what I was buying. I looked in her basket and thought I saw cilantro, which I had forgotten I needed for the turkey chili I was making that day. I told her that and she laughed, “Oh no…that’s just the leaves on the flowers I’m buying. Isn’t that funny?” Suddenly a Trader Joe’s employee appeared next to me and said, “Can I get you anything?” “Yes,” I said, “I forgot cilantro!” Off she went…it took a little bit of time so I started to think they didn’t have any, but meanwhile the cashier chatted with the lady in front of me.

“You’ve got your hands full!” he said.

“Yes” she said, “and another coming soon. What were we thinking?!” We all laughed. And then, here was my employee with the cilantro. “It was the last one!” Ah…aren’t I lucky? I was having a good day.

Finally as I left the store and walked back to my car, I suddenly heard a booming and amazing male voice singing, “Oh Jamie, oh Jamie.” I looked around thinking maybe Trader Joe’s had hired a singer to entertain their customers. Yes, and no…the source of voice was a Trader Joe’s employee collecting the baskets! And no…he wasn’t mentally challenged as far as I could tell, but what a voice! I was too far away to acknowledge that I thought he was great (that’s how LOUD and strong his voice was) but I got in my car smiling from ear to ear. The only thing that would have made it more perfect is if my name was Jamie.

{September 14, 2012}   Live Fast — Eat Warm Figs!

There are certain produce items that are good for such a short period of time you have to check them carefully at the supermarket to make sure they aren’t already moldy before you even bring them home: raspberries, blackberries and figs to name a few. When you buy them, you had better plan to eat them immediately! And some items are sold only a couple of weeks a year, when they are in season. Figs are part of this group as well. When the supermarket advertises fresh figs, my husband and I are first in line!

For most of my life, all I had known of figs was fig newtons. No fun at all. As a child I watched my father take those cookies to work in his lunch every day and I never saw the attraction; he didn’t have to fight off us kids for THOSE cookies. Then I went through a phase in my life as an adult when I ate them because they were low in fat and “good” for me, but that only lasted as long as any well-intentioned diet.

That changed a couple of years ago when I had a fig epiphany. Living in Tennessee, my husband and I went to a “green” restaurant in Chattanooga called 212 Market. We had a warm fig salad with blue cheese. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. (As I wrote this and inserted the link I noticed that right now they have a special of  Harrison figs stuffed with blue cheese & bacon drizzled in honey & fried pimento cheese okra.) Wish I still lived near there!)

The next best thing though is that my husband started making a warm fig salad at home. We just had a simple one the other night: he sautéed the fresh figs in a tablespoon of butter and olive oil and served them on a bed of romaine with some grated Asiago cheese on top. No dressing, just a little of the olive oil and butter drizzled on the lettuce.

It may not be news in places like California (where most of our figs come from), but here in the Northeast I really look forward to the few weeks a year when the fresh figs are available to us and try to spread the gospel of their warm deliciousness to as many people as I can!

You’ve probably heard of Wordless Wednesday? Well, I thought I’d do Thirsty Thursday. My husband made this BLT Bloody Mary for me for my birthday. I LOVED it!

You take the lettuce, tomato, and bacon, dip them into the Bloody Mary, and put them together with the Texas Toast. It’s messy, but delicious!


The final piece to the food puzzle for me was learning to appreciate the extra dimension that the right beverage adds to the meal.

When I crossed the momentous bridge in America that is the legal drinking age, I drank cheap American draft beer even though I hated it. When I went out to a club, I would splurge on a Kahlua Sombrero or — horrors — a Sloe Gin Fizz (the thought of it now makes me sick), but that was only to loosen up and have fun. It was almost a necessary evil; I hated alcoholic beverages because I drank the cheap stuff.

I was never crazy about soda even when I was very young, so my usual beverage with a meal was water or milk. Although sparkling water is my go-to beverage now (and I find it helps my digestion), I like to have a craft beer every once in a while, or a special wine when it adds an extra dimension to the meal; the most common example would be a special beer with mexican food or red wine with Italian food. There’s nothing worse than the wrong red wine with an Italian meal that makes the tomato sauce taste acidic!

When I first started drinking red wine, I started with less tannic varieties like Merlot or Pinot Noir. My husband and I pretty much drank Merlot with everything back in the 90’s when it was the IT wine; I rarely touched white wine. As years went by, we have tried other varieties. Right now I love the Italian table wines like Montepulciano and Sangiovese with our pasta meals. And the summertime means I’m finally enjoying Rose and white table wine. I’m working at a wine distributor so I am branching out more and more and loving it! I still have to ask our resident wine expert at work for suggestions when my husband is making a special meal, but I’m learning. The right wine with the right food is truly something to savor.

This is an example of a healthy meal in my world: no meat and a vegetable is prominently featured. But it sure tasted decadent! Anyone who has read my food posts knows that my husband is a fabulous cook; he believes life is too short to eat ordinary. Every day for dinner we have something incredible. He loves cooking for me because I love food and I am open to food experiments. In this case, he took a recipe for pumpkin pappardelle and made it with buttercup squash. He used fresh ground nutmeg and fresh parsley — mmmm.

My husband is French so he likes to cook with butter and cream. I appreciate the wonderful food he cooks for me; I am a lucky woman. But I don’t appreciate the fat collecting around my middle and having to burn over 600 calories in my workout just so I don’t become HUGE! I can’t complain about the food…I am so grateful that I eat well and that he cooks for me. But I am so conflicted! I barely eat the rest of the day and seem to be always hungry.

Should I just keep working out like a fiend? Should I work harder on accepting myself with some fat on my body? What’s a former borderline anorexic to do??

My food discovery period began in Boston’s Chinatown. In the 70’s, there weren’t many ethnic restaurants in the suburbs, and the ones that existed catered to a clientele that enjoyed Americanized versions of the food. Thus, all l I knew of Chinese food was pu pu platters with fried shrimp and chicken wings. Sometimes my parents would order Chow Mein or Chop Suey if they were feeling adventurous. It was okay, but it didn’t excite me. In my early twenties, my good friend had a boyfriend whose band mate lived on the edge of Chinatown. He ate there almost every day; he kept bragging about the food, “You’ve got to have “real” Chinese food.” So one day we went to lunch at a hole-in-the-wall that he chose, and he ordered for all of us. We had mu shu pork, Peking ravioli, and a rice stick dish. I loved it!  I couldn’t believe I had been eating that doughy, boring stuff — oh, what I had been missing!

Then I tried Indian food. I had a college friend who was a vegetarian. After we graduated from college we would get together every once in a while for dinner, and her dietary restrictions meant we had limited options. She often chose Indian restaurants because they had a wide variety of vegetarian choices, and I found out that I really liked it. The spices were unique, and there were lots of vegetables!

Finally during my mid to late twenties, I dated a food critic who had gone to cooking school. He was a pretty good cook when we ate at home, but we often went out to restaurants so he could write a review. I went to a Vietnamese restaurant for the first time with him, and I discovered another food I liked. By then, I was really starting to realize that there was a big world of food out there if I was open to it! Of course, it all went back to my initial love of vegetables, since these ethnic food types were very vegetable based. What was interesting was that the girl who hated condiments was finally discovering sauces and liking them!

By the time I met my husband, I was well on my way to becoming a foodie…

I was a picky eater as a child  — high maintenance for my mother — but not in the way a mother would be mad about. I loved fruits and vegetables (especially raw ones), which were healthy for me, but I didn’t like sauces and condiments. For example, I liked tomatoes, but not ketchup or spaghetti sauce. My mother would make me “milk spaghetti” (spaghetti with butter and milk) when the rest of the family was having spaghetti with tomato sauce. Not too much extra effort…she just put mine aside before she put the sauce on.

The kids at school would call me “rabbit” because I would eat celery sticks, carrot sticks, even green pepper strips for lunch — no salad dressing of course. I became a favorite target of teasing because I would have a gag reflex whenever I was in the vicinity of bowls of ketchup, mustard, and relish. Of course they were always putting them near me and laughing. Lunchtime wasn’t enjoyable for me.

After my “healthy” phase, I went the other way in junior high — I ate an ice cream sandwich and a milk every day, until I couldn’t bear to eat another one. ( I still don’t eat them!) That led me to my borderline anorexic phase, which lasted through high school: I pretty much ate nothing but toast and tea, soup, and…milk spaghetti.

It took a lot of comments from strangers — “Your friend looks like a boat person,” “Is your friend an orphan?” — before I realized how I looked to other people. But it was a bout with the flu, during which I lost 10 lbs I couldn’t afford to lose, that changed my eating habits. At one point I couldn’t even drink water…I didn’t know that I was allergic to the codeine cough syrup the doctor had prescribed. I was lucky that my mother was taking care of me; she called the doctor and he told me to stop taking it. Nothing like the fear of not being able to eat again to scare someone into wanting a steak!

Little did I know, a wonderful food future lay in front of me…

{April 18, 2012}   Cooking vs. Baking

My husband is a terrific and creative cook. He loves to read recipes, but he rarely follows them. He has been cooking for so long, he can rely on his experience and instincts, and the food is usually delicious. (Lucky me, I get to be the guinea pig for what later becomes a dinner party meal.) He used to ask me to do the baking, figuring I would like it because I love to focus on one thing and follow instructions, but he couldn’t stand the state of the kitchen while I worked!

He had never done much baking because his impression was that it was rigid and exact, and there wouldn’t be room for his creativity.Over the last year, however, he has started to try baking: some desserts (for dinner parties), pizza (dough), and artesian bread. (We rarely buy bread from the grocery store anymore.) Though most of the bread is of the no-knead variety, he has sometimes varied the ingredients to change its flavor, and it has been getting better and better! He has discovered that with practice and experience, he now has a sense of what the dough should be like in terms of color and consistency, and he knows when he needs to add more flour or more water. The Baker is emerging!

An ingredient in "made-up" milk

Bringing up a family with 7 children on one modest income meant my mother and father had to stretch a dollar and cut corners wherever they could. As an adult now trying to make ends meet, I respect and appreciate their efforts; as a child there were times I wished I had more, but I had ENOUGH. That being said, I wanted to write about a couple of my childhood food adventures that I vowed I WOULD NOT repeat.

“Made-Up Milk”

To make the milk go further, my parents would mix one-half gallon of powdered milk and water with one-half gallon of whole milk. My older brother and I had to take turns making the powdered milk in a plastic container and stirring in the whole milk; thus, we called the concoction “made-up milk.” We used to argue about whose turn it was to do it. It makes me laugh now to think about it; it probably took all of 5 minutes to do, but we whined about it. I couldn’t wait until I was on my own to drink whole milk…it seemed so decadent. Of course now I drink skim milk for health reasons and it probably tastes closer to “made-up milk” than whole milk. The joke’s on me.

Frozen Bread

I recently heard some coupon divas on the Nate Berkus show talking about going to the bakery outlet store and stocking up by freezing the bread to save money. My parents did that when I was growing up; we would make the trip to the “bread store” and come home with bags full of loaves of bread (usually Wonder bread). I hated seeing the bread go into the freezer. My peanut butter and jelly sandwiches didn’t taste great with thawed-out white bread — I swore it had a “freezer” taste (no wonder I never liked sandwiches). Of course, I’m talking white bread here, so it ONLY tasted good when it was soft enough to make breadballs (but that’s another story). Although the invention of the microwave changed that somewhat — I think you can now “defrost” frozen bread quickly and it will stay soft and not get soggy — I vowed when I grew up that I would not freeze bread. And guess what? My grown-up compromise is that my husband and I do freeze whole grain bread or English muffins and we only use them for toast.  No frozen white bread though.

So…I compromised my “vows” due to economics…hmmm. I know my parents enjoyed seeing that. 🙂


et cetera
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