2020 flat out sucked. The pandemic changed everything. We went from anticipating our life on the open ocean and exploring foreign ports to basically locking down at the marina. Our busy social life and wide circle of friends closed to just family and dock neighbors.
Eleven people that had some form of effect on my life died. Of those, three were my husband’s family members (Uncle Bob, Uncle Bill, and his mother, Donna Perry), one was a dear childhood friend’s mother (Margaret Sloane), one was a much-loved sailor (Jim Hild), one was a special writing group friend (Catherine Phillips), and five were influential in my careers (Cliff Benson, Julian Polvorosa, Charlie Gilcrest, Dr. Marshall Mitzmann, and Tom Guarino). I have never experienced so much loss in one year.
Macaroni and cheese is one of our favorite comfort foods. I’ve made it a kazillion ways using different varieties of cheese, baked, straight from the pot, with a bread crumb topping, and without.
This recipe was invented because I had a half cup of Alfredo sauce in my fridge and didn’t want it to go to waste. I figured it would meld well with the other ingredients I had on hand, and I was right! It was ooey, gooey cheesy and so easy to throw together.
Variations: Choose your own cheese blends and try different flavors of creamed soup and Alfredo sauce. (The sauce I had was garlic flavored; otherwise I would have added a couple of minced garlic cloves as we are garlic lovers.) Add a diced jalapeno pepper or a dash of cayenne if you like it spicy. Use different pasta shapes, but I suggest staying with one that will hold the cheese, such as shells, elbow or penne.
Sometimes my recipes are created out of necessity, as in this case. I bought a 4 lb pork loin that I thought would be great for my hubby to smoke. I’ll be the first to admit that I have no clue as to the fine art of barbecuing, grilling and smoking. He mentioned that this cut might dry out but went ahead and brined and smoked, spending all day tending to our main course for the evening. And lo and behold, he was right. It was far from tender and juicy and instead almost inedible.
I come from a long line of thrifty cooks, so wasn’t going to throw away the whole loin and thought long and hard hard to bring moisture back to the protein. (Although, I did pick this up from our local Grocery Outlet for a bargain price!) I knew I needed to simmer it in a liquid and with fall just beginning, our evenings have been getting cooler so a soup came to mind.
My hubby is a huge fan of mole sauce. He loves the bold flavor profile of chocolate and smoky peppers and a healthy bit of spice. Traditional mole sauce made from scratch calls for literally dozens of ingredients and a whole lot of finely grinding of spices. I took the easy route and started with a store-bought jar of sauce and doctored it up to what hubby says was “perfection.”
Hubby smoked the chicken thighs and they shredded up nice and juicy. You could simply buy a rotisserie chicken or bake or poach breasts, but make sure you don’t dry them out.
It’s hard to describe this sauce … It is velvety smooth and rich with an earthy-sweetness that mellows upon baking. And best of all … so easy to whip up in a few minutes! I made a package of Spanish rice for the side and added a can of diced tomatoes and a dash of chile pepper and it was the perfect compliment. Black, pinto or refried beans would also go nicely.
I started this blog on April 16, 2018 … one year to the day we planned to cut the docklines and begin cruising the world on our floating home. This was already a delay from our original dream of retiring early and leaving in 2015. Life happened and we changed the departure to 2019. Family circumstances and necessary medical procedures for the Captain and First Mate didn’t allow us to leave the country then either. So being conservative, we readjusted to leave in the fall of 2020 and winter in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
This would give us the summer to put a bit more money aside, finish final boat projects and make sure our family was healthy, happy and settled. In Spring 2021 we’d decide what our next course would be and go from there.
Then COVID-19 rocked the world. Back in March, we all believed that we’d be through this and back to life as usual in a few months; six at tops. We’d wait until December or January and then head south.
She took the pictures from the back of the closet and placed them in a box for the movers. She promised herself that she wasn’t going to look at them, but she couldn’t resist and turned over the small one that used to sit on her makeup table. As her fingers stroked the glass her mind drifted back to that magical day.
It went precisely as she had planned. All of their family and friends were in attendance, the sun was setting just as the ceremony ended, and the reception tent was aglow with twinkling white lights. So much love. So much joy. So much promise.
She was Cinderella marrying her Prince Charming and they were going to live Happily Ever After. That was then, back when life was easy breezy.
Hubby has been doing a ton of meat smoking since we were gifted with a mini-Traegar barbeque from his Dad. We’ve done salmon, whole chickens, corned beef (which makes pastrami), and beef and pork roasts. Roasts end up in recipes for two or three meals and I try to be creative in changing up the flavor profile so we aren’t eating the same thing every night.
This was a 6 pound lamb roast that started with a nice fat cap, making the meat tender and juicy. After serving it sliced the first night, I cut the leftovers into bite-sized cubes and made a stew for my daughter with potatoes, celery and peas, Shepherd Pies for us and finally this curry served over jasmine rice.
Chicken wings don’t have to be a guilty pleasure. I’ve found that baking them is as delish as deep frying, and far more heart-healthy (not to mention less messy).
You can take the easy-peasy route and simply make a batch of basic wings and then serve a variety of dipping sauces on the side. Or you can go a bit more fancy and flavorful by tossing them in one of the sauces below near the end of the cooking time. I usually serve with a platter of raw, cold veggies.
Variations: Recipes for my basic wings and two favorite flavors are below: Buffalo and Ginger-Soy. You can toss the wings in a multitude of sauces of your choosing and finish in the oven. Oil based salad dressings are a good option. Stay away from cream-based sauces as they will burn; offer them for dipping instead (ranch and bleu cheese are a favorite). An easy way to create your own dipping sauces is to start with a base of 1/4 cup sour cream and simply stir in herbs and spices of your choosing.
A dear friend gifted me with a literal armload of fresh herbs from her garden. I used them in daily recipes for a solid week, keeping them wrapped in damp paper towels in the fridge, and then needed to find another use before they turned brown. There are a plethora of ideas such as tying them in bunches, hanging by their stems and letting dry, making pesto or chimichurro sauce, and freezing in ice cube trays. I opted to make simple syrup, compound butter and infused oil.
Simple Syrup … the name says it all. It takes all of 5 minutes to make and the result is a thick, sweet syrup. Herbal infused simple syrup adds a gourmet flair to cocktails and desserts and lasts for about two weeks when stored in a sterilized glass container in the fridge.
Compound Butter … Another easy way to add flavor to everyday meals with a pat of herbal butter on warm rolls, rice, mashed potatoes or veggies. It is also incredibly delicious served on a steak hot off the grill or pan. It can be frozen for up to six months or about a week in the fridge.
Olive Oil … Store-bought infused oils are expensive, especially when they are so easy to make! The big difference is that manufactured products have a longer shelf life than homemade versions. So you’ll want to make these in small batches and use within two weeks. Use the lightest olive oil you can find so the flavor doesn’t compete with the herbs. You can use the herbs that are strained out in future recipes. The rosemary and garlic gets nice and crispy and is wonderful added to soups and stews.
I live aboard a 42 ft Tayana Vancouver sailboat, hull #5 laid in 1979, with my husband and little dog. We are preparing to head to Mexico in Fall 2022 and I enjoy blogging about our preparations for our journey, cooking in my tiny kitchen and writing short stories.