A deliciously lazy day

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Perfect!  High 78.  Sunny

STEPS:  A measley 3317.  I took a day of rest from my morning hike.

We watched CBS Sunday Morning, as we munched on George’s traditional grits and eggs breakfast.  Yummy as usual.

I slowed it way down today, and spent most of the day reading outside in the sunshine.  I popped some popcorn to accompany the book-reading.  (I did the air-pop kind, hoping it would be fewer calories).

We went over to our friends’ house, me to chat with Irene about Christmas dinner plans,  and George to play chess with Rob.  George is getting better with practice!  As I left their house, I took a photo of their cute dog alongside their beautiful Christmas poinsettia.

I saw on Facebook an article from the Rochester (MN) newspaper showing the first Mayo Clinic staff to get the Covid-19 vaccine.  We hope our daughter who works in their ER will be able to get hers soon.

This photo popped up as a Facebook memory from 2 years ago when we were on our way to do a housesitting assignment in Panama.  Hopefully, we will be back to international travel next year!

While we sat outside enjoying a late afternoon drink, we spotted a pair of beautiful green jays in a tree in our neighbor’s yard.  Normally they stay in the state park across the street, but came here today to snatch some of the acorns that had fallen from the tree.  So gorgeous!

DINNER: Two recipes from my buddy Jacques Pepin:

GREENS WITH QUICK CREAM DRESSING:

This is the same recipe as the sauce I made for the fish a few nights ago, but with less horseradish.  I made it to use up the somewhat spendy Boston lettuce I recently bought.  I didn’t want it to go bad before we had a chance to eat it!

1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1.5 tsp red wine vinegar
a bit of horseradish (optional)

Jacques points out that this dressing is less fattening than the regular oil and vinegar dressings (due to the oil).  It seems very rich and was delicious on the delicate lettuce leaves.

SMOKED SALMON TIMBALES

I think this is meant to be an appetizer, but we made it our main dish.

2 T minced chives
4 oz goat cheese
4 large slices smoked salmon
8 very thin slices of red onion
8 thin slices apple (I skipped this as I do not like to mix sweet and savory – a quirk of mine)
1 tsp pepper

Garnish —
2 T drained capers
1/3 cup diced, peeled cucumber
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 T olive oil

Toast or baguette slices for serving.

Using four glass ramekin cups, layer the ingredients into each dish as follows:  divide the chives among the bowls, then spoon 1 T of the goat cheese.  Press half a slice of the salmon on top; and add 1 slice of the onion and 1 slice of the apple.  Sprinkle a little black pepper over the apple, then press the other half of the salmon slice on top.  Add another tablespoon of the goat cheese, then a slice of the onion and a slice of the apple.  Finish each timbale with a dash of black pepper..  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the garnish – Mix the capers, cucumber, salt, and oil in a bowl.  At serving time, unmold each timbale onto a plate, and sprinkle the garnish around the timbales.  Serve with toast or baguette slices.

The one pictured in the cookbook turned out beautifully.  Mine tasted delish, but unfortunately didn’t unmold very well, so was not particularly attractive. 

BOOK:  “Without Reservations” by Alice Steinbach.  A lovely book about an American women who abruptly decides to spend a year by herself traveling around Europe.  5 stars out of 5.  Great writing style. 

A day of painting..

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Mostly sunny.  High 80

STEPS:  13,198
CLASSES:  2 water aerobics

Since chair yoga was not offered today (Saturday), I took a longer morning hike.  The professional bicyclists were out.  My normally solitary walk was filled with cyclists and joggers.  The cyclists were all dressed up in bike gear and a back-up car was following them with lights for their safety (in the morning fog).  All very nice.  They all greeted me with cheers of “Good Morning”  or “Buenos dias”. 

I am going to quit complaining about the weather as  is it better here than most any other place.  Even though the weather was fine today,  the swimming pool water was still cold, and water aerobics was uncomfortable.  Only a fellow Minnesotan and I did the classes.  Afterwards, I sat in the hot tub to warm my bones up.

George finished his painting projects.  He continued covering some nicks and spots on the cupboards and doors.  He touch-upped some spots on our island, too.  Then, he finished the wine rack that he made us to go under the bar refrigerator.  It looks nice!

PHOTO

I did some computer work in the clubhouse, and afterwards played some Christmas songs on the organ there.   Thank goodness no one was there to hear me as I am very rusty.  It was fun.

Then – madness.  We had to go shopping at the supermarket.  Not only is it Saturday, when it is normally crazy busy, but it is the Saturday before Christmas!   It actually wasn’t all that bad, and they had extra staff manning the check-outs.  We did some shopping at the liquor store, too,  so the outing was an expensive one!  There were a lot of empty shelves at the liquor store….especially in the huge tequila section!  🙂 

By the time we  got home and got everything put away, it was almost 6:00.  We sat outside with a beer and wine to enjoy the beautiful sunset and temperature, and for me, to relax.  It seems that I am running all of the time!!! 

DINNER:  WOW!  I made this Jacques Pepin salad that was superb!  I am definitely going to make this again: 

MUSHROOM AND WALNUT SALAD WITH SOUR CREAM DRESSING

4 cups sliced mushrooms – white button or cremini
1/2 cup walnut pieces
2/3 cup sour cream
1/2 cup minced scallions
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
8-12 Boston or butter lettuce leaves washed and drained

Combine everything (but the lettuce) in a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate until serving time.  (Best to make ahead so that it sets for at least 30 minutes). 

When ready to serve, arrange the lettuce leaves in nests in four wide bowls.  Spoon the mushroom mixture into the lettuce nests.

The lettuce is exceptionally tender and pairs so well with the dressing.  Loved it!

A note about lemon/lime juice.  It is definitely worth buying a lemon squeezer and using fresh lemons and limes in cooking.  Fresh lime juice makes all the difference in the world in margaritas.  (I am getting a small reputation here for my margaritas….the secret is fresh lime juice and NO pre-prepared mix).  

Main course was my own invention (not very brainy, but good…)  Pasta with butternut squash pasta sauce.  I served it with a dollop of extra  baked butternut squash, green onions, and parmesan.  Easy-peasy and very different.  This made for a nice non-meat meal.

I shouldn’t be complaining about the cold…

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Cloudy and windy.  High 69

STEPS:  8893
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

As I did my morning walk, I passed by the farm where the dog sits at attention, awaiting his master.  Today, the farmer arrived just as I was walking by.  The dog jumped for joy and even the horse came over to the entrance gate to greet the farmer.  How sweet!

It was COLD doing water aerobics!  I have asked that the heater be checked several times, but it  has not gotten any warmer.   My Minnesota friend and I were the only brave souls today.  Even though the temperature was pretty good (about 69), it was cloudy and windy which made it feel colder.  While I was exercising,  I watched several residents fix up the outdoor patio at the clubhouse.  With Covid, all activities have been canceled, and the tables were put away during the summer.  With the vaccine on the horizon, people are getting their hopes up, I guess.

George continues working on his many projects.  He finished the storage box for the wood for our fire pit.

This Facebook memory popped up from 6 years ago, when our older daughter got married in India. Our younger daughter joined us for the wedding and to travel around southern India together. One of my favorite photos of the 2.

DINNER:  Another Jacques Pepin recipe:

POACHED TILAPIA WITH HERBED CREAM SAUCE

1/2 tsp salt
4 small tilapia fillets (I used the drum and sheepshead that George caught a few weeks ago)

Herbed cream sauce…

1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 T red wine vinegar
1/2 T coarsely chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 T corasely chopped fresh chives
1 T horseradish

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a large pot and add the salt.  Drop the fish fillets into the boiling water and bring the water back to a gentle boil.  Cover and remove from the heat.  Let stand in the hot water for about 1 minute.

Meanwhile, for the sauce….Pour the cream into a small bowl and add the salt and pepper.  Whip with a whisk for about 15 seconds, until frothy.  Stir in the remaining ingredients.

Remove the fish from the water, and blot dry.  Place a fillet on each of the 4 warmed plates and coat with the sauce.

This was incredibly easy.  The sauce is what makes it.  Jacques says it is his mother’s classic dressing.  He recommends it to coat salad greens, especially Boston lettuce, or any kind of fish. 

A day full of aluminum! Crazy!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Still a bit chilly, especially in the AM

STEPS:  10,776
CLASS:  Nada!  Too cool for the swimming pool.

My morning walk was a bit exciting today.  The Border Patrol helicopter was circling in the hayfield that I walk around.  As it circled, I started hearing sirens.  They were rounding up a group of undocumented people.  The helicopter spotted them and radioed to the agents on the ground.  I walked by a Border Patrol agent and asked him if I could continue walking, as my path passed directly by where they were huddled.  He said yes, so I continued.  There were about 15 Border Patrol vehicles surrounding about 10 bedraggled young men.  I could see the Border Patrol agents passing out what must have been space blankets – the thermal ones used to avoid hypothermia.  The pour souls must have just swum across the Rio Grande, and it was a cool/cold morning – I had spotted frost on the grass.  All appeared to be wearing aluminum foil.  It is such a sad situation. 

Another day whizzed by somehow.  I taught Spanish in the afternoon.  My students are really improving!

I belong to an Airstream Facebook group called Airstream Addicts.  Someone posted this photo of a beer we would like to find…..It has a picture of an Airstream on the can.  More aluminum in my life today! 

This Facebook memory popped up today….Two years ago we were doing a housesitting assignment near Asheville, North Carolina.  We visited the beautiful Biltmore House which was decorated for Christmas.  Great memories!

DINNER:  Another one from Jacques Pepin’s book “Fast Food My Way”.  This was a bit of a departure from his normal recipes.  It is much less formal.  He calls it a winter picnic dish:

SAUSAGE AND POTATO PACKET

1 T olive oil
4 medium onions, cut crosswise into halves
12 small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
16 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 tsp salt
6 Italian sausages
1 # kielbasa sausage, cut into 4 pieces
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 T chopped parsley

Heat the oven to 425.   Arrange a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil on a cookie sheet so that half of the foil covers the pan and the remainder extends beyond it at either end.  Pour the olive oil over the foil covering the pan, then rub the onion halves in the oil to coat them.  Distribute the potatoes and garlic around the onions and sprinkle with the salt.  Scatter the sausages throughout the vegetables and place the rosemary on the top.   Fold the foil overhang over the mixture and fold in the sides to secure the stew in a tight casing. 

Bake the foil package for one hour.  Transfer the package from the pan to a platter.  Sprinkle with parsley and serve directly from the aluminum foil.

This would be a great dish for cooking while camping.  You could put the aluminum foil packet directly on the campfire (or grill) grate.  We thought it was a bit bland, so added mustard and hot sauce.  Super easy and the clean-up is a snap!    Another aluminum occurrence today! 

Another busy day. What about retirement?

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Still a bit nippy.  High 69

CLASSES:  Chair yoga.  Too cool for swimming

STEPS: 10,151

Today seemed to be another crazy, busy day.  What about retirement?  I spent several hours in the clubhouse, using their wifi, to create my lesson plans for upcoming Spanish classes. 

Then, I had to rush home for a telephone visit with an RN from our doctor’s office, to discuss Covid-19 testing for our trip to Hawaii.  It is all very complicated and frustrating.  We have to get a test within 72 hours, but the labs cannot guarantee results within 72 hours as we leave on a Wednesday, and the labs are closed on Sundays.  What to do?

I made George a fish taco for lunch and topped it with one of the huge radishes that I bought at our vegetable stand yesterday.

A Facebook memory from 5 years ago popped up today.  The photos were from India, where one of our daughters got married.  Those were good times; sadly they are divorced now.

Then, off for more errands.  I went to Office Depot to print out my Spanish lessons.  As usual, it was an ordeal.  Twice the machine stopped because:  1) it ran out of paper, and 2) the hole punch holder filled up.  I had to flag down the clerk who was impossibly busy trying to take care of a long line of customers. 

Next stop was WalMart where George bought a cover for his new fire pit.

Then, home to relax and to prep dinner.  Tonight was back to my “boyfriend” Jacques Pepin:

BREADED PORK SCALOPPINE WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE

3/4 pound pork tenderloins, trimmed of fat
1 1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 egg
2 cups bread crumbs
2 T parmesan cheese
3 T olive oil
2.5 cup sliced white button mushrooms
1 T minced chives
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Cut the tenderloin crosswise into 8 slices.  Pound the slices until they are about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle with 3/4 tsp of the salt and all of the pepper

Beat the egg with a fork.  Combine the bread crumbs and cheese in another bowl.  Dip the meat slices into the egg to lightly coat each side.   Then, dip the meat into the bread crumb mixture until all sides are coated. 

At cooking time, heat the oil until hot.  Arrange 4 scaloppine in the skillet (You will need to use 2 skillets if you have 8 scaloppine slices).  Saute over high heat for 1.5 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned.  Arrange on a platter and keep warm in the oven.

Add the butter and onion to a skillet and saute over high heat for 1 minute, or until slightly softened.  Add the mushrooms and the rest of the salt, and saute for 2-3 minutes. 

Spoon the mushrooms over the scaloppine, sprinkle with chives and lemon juice, then serve.

This was yummy and easy to do.  I have had this cookbook “Fast Food My Way” for many, many years.  When I made it years ago, our daughters must have been quite young, and were picky eaters.  I saw a comment on the recipe that I had written back then:  “Very good.  Even the girls liked” 

BOOK:  “A Taste for Vengeance” by Martin Walker.  Part of the Bruno Chief of Police novel series which I love.  The only bad thing is that the book describes delicious-sounding French wines and meals, so I always start snacking while I read his books!  5 stars out of 5

Sushi time!

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Chilly but sunny.   High 69

STEPS:  8717
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

I overslept this morning, so had to curtail my long morning hike, as I had to rush back for yoga class.  Such a tight schedule!

George is busy with several projects.  He is finishing up the wine rack (painting it) and is building a structure to store our wood for the firepit.

While he was painting the wine rack, he decided to touch up little dings in our cupboards.  Everything was wide open all day!

Santa delivered two more gifts for me today.  (George has been busy with online shopping!)  I think I know what is in the bottom box!  🙂

I wasn’t going to do water aerobics, as the temperature is “iffy”.  But, I decided to go for it.  It really was a bit cool.  Another Rochester, MN friend and I were the only brave ones today.

Our vegetable vendor came again this afternoon.  I bought some local grapefruit, beans (that he said he grew himself), green onions, and HUGE radishes.  When we have bought local (non-commercial) citrus in the past, we have always been bothered with fruit flies.  George found a tip on the internet that seems to work – we put used wine corks in the fruit bowl.  Apparently they don’t like the smell, as it seems to work.  Of course, I have to do my part by drinking wine! 

We went out to dinner at the only decent Japanese restaurant in the valley.  We went with some friends.  They shared two delicious-looking rolls….

And some eel sushi…

George and I shared some shumai (dumplings) and a sushi/sashimi platter.  All very tasty.

The table next to us ordered a beautiful array of sushi and sashimi…

A very pleasant night!

The leaning tower of…..

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission,  Texas
WEATHER:  Sunny, but didn’t warm up much.  High 58

STEPS:  10,001 (whew!  Just made it!)
CLASSES:  Chair yoga.

On my walk this morning, I came up to a pack of stray/wild dogs..  Darn!  I didn’t have my walking stick with me  today.  I picked up a few rocks in case they approached me.  One looked at me menacingly, but they were more interested in chasing the birds.  I got away from them as fast as I could.

George kept busy most of the day making a wine rack to go under the beer refrigerator we recently got (free).  He went to the RV park next door to use their woodshop.  It is a great set-up.

An electricity company worker came to look at our electric box/transformer.  He said it is not leaning enough to warrant leveling.  He said that most of the ones like this throughout the city are leaning, too.  So, we have to give up.  George put the temporary fence he made back around it to hide it somewhat.

I taught Spanish again today.  The classes run about one hour.   I think the students are feeling more confident now, and are putting nice sentences together.  I am trying to make it practical for them, enough to get around our area with people who don’t speak English.

I had submitted a maintenance request regarding the cold water in the swimming pool.  We swimmers don’t think the heater is working right.  Meanwhile, this morning I saw the pool guy and approached him to ask him myself to check out the heater.  He backed off, saying “No hablo ingles”  (I don’t speak Spanish).  I reassured him that I can speak Spanish and asked him to turn up the heat.  We started chatting.  The first thing he said is that he is a legal resident, but didn’t grow up in the USA.  Consequently, he never learned English.  Plus, he is deaf in one year, so it makes learning English more difficult.  Poor guy.  Super polite and helpful.

The highlight of the day was a Zoom chat with our daughter.  She is planning to visit us in February.

DINNER:  I did my own thing tonight, without relying on loverboy Jacques Pepin.  I made a lentil/smoked turkey stew whose recipe I found on the internet.  It was a delicious way to use up leftover smoked turkey from Thanksgiving.  But…..now I have lots of stew in the freezer! 

A nice, lazy Sunday

LOCATION: In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Sunny and hot.  High 85

STEPS:  7,677
CLASSES:  None.  A day of rest

I try to get 10,000+ steps in daily.  I get the first 6,000 – 8,000 on my morning walk, depending on which route I take.  Then, I can easily get to 10K by walking to and from the clubhouse and around the neighborhood.  Today, I skipped the long hike, so only got these steps from neighborhood walks.  A lot of people here have golf carts.  I don’t want one because I’m afraid I would hop onto it instead of getting my steps in.

We had our Sunday morning ritual:  Eggs and grits while watching CBS Sunday Morning.  They did an interview with Jose Feliciano in celebration of the 50th anniversary of his song “Feliz Navidad”.  I will discuss this at Spanish class tomorrow.  I LOVE that song!

George and I went scrounging in our neighborhood compost heap.  We rescued some aloe plants someone had tossed, and planted them around the palm trees that flank our driveway.

We also picked up a lot of wood left from construction sites that we will use in our new fire pit.  George spent the day sawing the wood into smaller pieces.  He stored them next to our ugly electricity box that continues to lean, even after several pleas to the City of Mission to come out and level it.

I enjoyed a lazy afternoon reading a good book and munching on popcorn.

DINNER:  Two Jacques Pepin’s recipes!

RIGATONI AND MUSSELS WITH SAFFRON

I thought this would be tasty and different, and it was!

4 pounds mussels, well scrubbed
1/2 dry white wine
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 tsp chopped garlic
1/2 cup minced scallions
1/2 cup diced celery
1 tsp saffron threads
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
12 oz rigatoni

Bring the mussels and wine to a boil over high heat.  Boil, covered, for 5 minutes until the mussels have opened.  Toss them around in the pan.  Drain in a colander set over a bowl.  Carefully pour it into another bowl, taking care to leave the sediment behind.    You should have about 2 cups mussel/wine liquid.  If not, add water.  Remove the mussels from the shells, reserving a few shells for decorations.  Set them aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, scallions, and celery, and saute for about 1 minute.  Stir in the mussel liquid and cook gently for 1 minute.  Crumble in the saffron, stir in the mussels, add the salt and pepper, and set aside.

When ready to cook the pasta, bring about 2 quarts salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 12 minutes.  Drain in a colander, then add to the mussel mixture.  Bring to a boil for 1 minute.

Serve in soup plates or bowls, sprinkled with Parmesan and chives if desired.  Serves 4

——————————————————————————————————————-

I had some cauliflower left over from a previous Jacques recipe, so found this other recipe in his  book for tonight’s side dish….

CAULIFLOWER WITH SCALLIONS AND SESAME OIL

1 firm white cauliflower head
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 T peanut oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1/3 cup finely minced scallions

Divide the cauliflower into 12-14 florets.  Bring about 1/2 inch water to a boil and add the florets.  Cover and cook over high heat about 8 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender, but still firm.  There should be almost no water remaining in the pan.

Transfer the florets to a serving bowl and immediately add the remaining ingredients.  Toss gently to coat the cauliflower and serve.  Serves 4

This was super easy and a great way to use up cauliflower.

After dinner, we drove around our neighborhood to check out the Christmas lights.  Our neighbor has a cute fake palm tree lit up….

The day of the tongue…..

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Much warmer.  High 86

STEPS:  13,090
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

I got my morning walk in before it got too hot.  Nothing exciting to report. 

Today was the “day of the tongue”.  We bought a cow tongue at one of the Harvest Host farms where we camped in October.  They raise miniature cows, so the tongue was not as huge as a regular cow’s tongue (thank goodness.)

First, we had to boil it in broth and herbs for 3 hours.

After the 3 hours, we had to let it cool.  Then, we (aka George) skinned it, sliced it thin, and grilled it over our campfire.  I froze a lot.  I see tongue sandwiches in many future lunches for George!

Tongue cooking/prep/finishing up  was an all-day affair.  At the same time we were doing this, George was trying to sell our old (rusted out) fire pit.  He had put it on Marketplace for $10.  His phone buzzed all day with interested customers.  Most were in Spanish, so I had to help him out.  I corresponded with several people who eventually petered out, mostly due to being too far away to come to our house.  The problem was that their Spanish was unrecognizable.  I don’t know if it was due to voice activation, or whether they just used made-up words on their text messages.   I responded to each with correct spelling and grammar.  They probably thought that was odd.  George communicated with one lady who said she was on her way.  She texted him later saying that she hadn’t realized that we are located so close to the Rio Grande, and when she got close by, she turned around afraid.  We assume that means that she is an undocumented person.  Finally, he got it sold.

I had two great Facebook memories pop up today.  One is from our safari last year in South Africa, in Krueger National Park.  The other is from 5 years ago when we camped on the beach in Baja California, Mexico.  Both are such fond memories of travel.  Hopefully we can return to international travel in 2021.

While George had the fire going, we grilled some stuffed anaheim and poblano peppers for an appetizer.   Delicioso!

DINNER – Another Jacques Pepin recipe.  This was spectacular! 

RED SNAPPER WITH TOMATOES AND CREAM

2 cups sliced red onions
2 tsp olive oil
1/3 cup water
1.5 cup diced tomatoes
4 red snapper fillets (I substituted the drum and sheepshead that George caught a few weeks ago)
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 tsp salt
1/2 heavy cream
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp potato starch (I substituted corn starch) dissolved in 1 T water
1 T chives or parsley for garnish

Put the onions and olive oil in a large skillet with the water.  Cook over high heat for about 3 minutes, or until the liquid is gone.  Add the diced tomato, saute for 1 minutes, then set aside and keep warm.

Arrange the fish fillets in one layer in another large skillet and add the wine and 1/2 tsp of the salt.  Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and boil very gentlly for about 2 minutes, until fish in tender but not overcooked.

Transfer the fish to a platter and set aside in a warm place.  Add the cream to the liquid remaining in the skillet used to cook the fish and boil over high heat for a few minutes to reducue it to 1 cup.  Add the remaining 1/2 tsp salt, pepper and dissolved potato starch.  Mix well. 

To serve, divide the warm red onion-tomato mixture among 4 plates, and arrange a piece of fish on top.  Coat with the cream sauce, sprinkle with the chives or parsley, and serve immediately. 

Side was an arugula and tomato salad

Santa came early….

LOCATION:  In our tiny house in Mission, Texas
WEATHER:  Warmer.  High 80.  Sunny

STEPS:  12,197
CLASSES:  Chair yoga and 2 water aerobics

The morning flew by with classes and walking.  Yet again, the only 2 brave souls in water aerobics were a fellow Minnesotan and me.  The water is still very cold.  Small world – this lady is from Rochester, MN (where we lived) and actually worked in the same department as I did at Mayo Clinic.  What are the odds?

In the afternoon, I walked to my friend’s house to help her set up her listing in Trusted Housesitters.  If travel to Hawaii is still possible, we will go with these friends in January, and they will hopefully get a housesitter for their house and cute dog. 

George surprised me with an early Christmas present.  A fire pit.  I am SO HAPPY.  Haha – he has been lusting after this fire pit at Home Depot for weeks.  Our current one is getting rusted out.

DINNER:  Two Jacques Pepin recipes:

THIRTY-MINUTE CASSOULET

Normally, I make my brother’s cassoulet recipe, but I thought I would check Jacques’s out since I have some ham to use up.

1 T olive oil
1 pound ham diced
4 bratwurst sausages
3/4 cup hot Italian sausage, cut into chunks
1 cup diced mushrooms
3/4 cup diced onion
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp thyme
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato diced
1/2 cup water
1/4 tsp pepper
3 T chopped parsley

For serving – Tabasco and  Dijon mustard

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add the ham and sausage.  Cover and cook for 8 minutes, turning occassionally.  Add mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf.  Mix well and cook for 6 minutes.  Add the beans, tomato, water, and pepper.  Bring back to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and boil gently for 5 minutes.

At serving time, discard the bay leaf, and arrange on a platter.  Sprinkle the parsley on top..  Serve with tabasco and Dijon. 

This was super easy and tasty. 

I had some asparagus leftover from a previous Jacques recipe, so looked to him again for inspiration….

ASPARAGUS CUSTARDS

1 # asparagus, tough ends removed
1 garlic clove crushed
3 eggs
1/2 c heavy cream
1/2  tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T butter at room temperature

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in an ovenproof skillet.  Add the asparagus, bring the water back to a boil, and cook over high heat for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and place the asparagus on a cutting board.  Set the skillet aside.

Cut off the top 3 inches of the asparagus and set aside to use for garnishing.  Cut the remaining stalks into 1-inch pices and put them in a food processor along with the garlic.  Process for 10 seconds.  Add the eggs, cream, most of the salt, and pepper.  Process for 10 seconds

Heat the oven to 350.  Using about 1/2 T of the butter, butter four small custard cups.  Divide the asparagus mixture among the molds and arrange them in the reserved skillet with enough water to come halfway up the sides of the cups.

Put the skillet in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custards are set.  Remove the cups from the water bath and rest for 10 minutes.

Split the reserved asparagus tips lengthwise, put them in a skillet and add the remaining dash of salt and the remaining 1.5 T butter.  Heat gently in the skillet on top of the stove. 

At serving time, unmold the custards and arrange the asparagus tips on top.  Serves 4

This was a beautiful presentation.  (Darn – I forgot to take a picture!)  It was pretty bland, though.  I think I would suggest adding some parmesan or hot sauce to it.