Thursday Thoughts

Alfredo the Dark
My sister Bec took Bill and me for lunch at our favorite pizza restaurant here in the east valley – Oregano’s. We nearly always order a pizza, but this time Bec and I were in the mood for something besides pizza – namely pasta. So Bill was on his own, and I ordered something they call Alfredo the Dark. It’s basically an alfredo with a bit of a Mexican flare. Poblanos, pasta, and a light cream sauce, with a grilled jalapeno on the side. Man, it was so good. I ordered it with a side of Italian sausage, but I wouldn’t do it again. Despite the fact that it was the lunch version, it was a lot of food. I seem to be doing restaurant reviews as of late. Hmmmm…….

Where are the Wet Wipes?
I’m not the only one who enjoyed my food yesterday. My nephew Erik and his family went out for hot wings last night. My great nephew Carter does love him some wings. Perhaps he shouldn’t eat them if he’s wearing white…….

Messy pastries
Among my very favorite pastry treats are crispies. Or krispies. However you spell it, they are delicious. My dad used to make them at the bakery, and if we were good, Mom would bring some home to eat on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Crispies are flat puff pastry, cinnamon, and big pieces of sugar. At the bakery, they came six to a pack. We wrapped them in stiff cellophane that was sealed by using a heavy and very hot iron that looked something like this…..

Anyhoo, Basha’s makes crispies, and quite good crispies. My brother knows how much I love them, so he will occasionally bring me a package that he has made because he makes the very best crispies – no lie. He sent me a text message the other day with a photo of a crispie attached. His message said If there was a beauty contest for crispies, I introduce the winner……

 

I had to agree with him. I asked him if he’d made it, and he admitted he had.  And 73 more just like it, he added.

Dumpster Diving
I get a weekly digital newsletter from PERA (my retirement plan), and it’s usually a bit bland, but might have an interesting story or two. But the one I got Tuesday had an item that took me by surprise. The article was about inexpensive things to do for fun in Colorado this summer. Cheap seats at a Rockies game, for example. But one of their ideas seemed a bit odd. They recommend dumpster diving in Cherry Hills, a high-end village in the southern part of the metro area. Grab a few friends and hunt down their dumpsters – we bet you there is GOLD inside. Seriously? They are suggesting we dig through trash dumpsters in someone’s back yards? Sometimes I think I’m just getting old. But that seems intrusive, if not illegal. Really PERA? Seriously, tell me if that lands on you as odd as it did on me.

Homeward Bound

We leave Monday for Denver. Among the many things I’ll miss about AZ are evening skies that look like this…..

Ciao.

Fried Goodness

voo-doo-donut-boxI started working at my dad’s bakery when I was 14 years old. I reckon that’s about the same age as my siblings, all of whom worked for Dad for varying number of years. My brother will argue that he worked for Dad (unpaid) from the time he was 2. That in fact may be true. He was the only boy, after all, and so destined to be a baker, at least in my Dad’s eyes. Which, I might add, became true.

All this is to say that when I was 14 years old (hmmmm, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1967 or 1968), bread was 29 cents a loaf. But more to the point of this blog post, doughnuts (or D-O-N-U-T-S as they are now commonly spelled) were 65 cents a dozen. A DOZEN. The very best glazed doughnuts that you can imagine. Doughnuts that were so light they practically floated in the air according to one of my cousins who was well acquainted with the bakery.

I am quite familiar with inflation. Store-bought bread now costs somewhere between 3 and 4 dollars a loaf, and it isn’t even half as good as that my father made. But I also probably earned something like a buck fifty an hour. It’s called inflation, and it’s inevitable.

Still, it didn’t stop me from being shocked recently when I purchased doughnuts to treat a friend of mine. I had offered to bring breakfast or lunch to her house. She is going through chemotherapy, and so when she told me the one thing that sounded good was doughnuts, well, I was more than happy to comply. First (and I assure you, foremost) because I want to be a good friend, but second, because I LOVE DOUGHNUTS.

I always have; I always will. They are flat-out delicious.

Breakfast treats are cyclical. I remember when the whole bagel thing became, well, a thing. Bagel shops were popping up all over the place. Bagels are okay. In fact, I like a bagel about as much as I like any breakfast food. (Except now with my low-fiber diet, I can’t eat my favorite which is an Everything bagel. But I substitute Asiago, and it’s nearly as good.)

Then we went through a doughnut phase. Krispie Kremes were built all over Denver. There were lines like at an Adele concert to purchase these sweet treats at all hours of the day and night. After a couple of years, you could hear the sound of crickets chirping at the doughnut shops, and they began to close down. My dad would have said (and my brother would concur), “Good riddance to bad doughnuts.” He didn’t think much of Krispie Kreme doughnuts, and I admit that, while there’s nothing quite as good as a warm Krispie Kreme glazed doughnut, after they have cooled off five minutes later, they’re just ordinary. Haters, don’t hate.

But back to my most recent doughnut purchase. There is a doughnut shop that opened up maybe a year or so ago called Voodoo Doughnuts. The original store is in Portland, OR, and they have only opened a couple more following their rip-roaring success there – one in Denver, and most recently in Austin, TX. We were in AZ when the Denver store opened, but there were apparently lines blocks long to purchase these doughnuts. The bakery is far from my house, so I have never bothered to go.

However, I knew that my friend likes these particular doughnuts and it is located very near her house. That’s where I decided to go.

It was midmorning when I got there, so the lines had died down. I only had a short wait. Which was just enough time to get over my shock when I saw the price of a dozen doughnuts. My friends, a dozen of mixed doughnuts was $15. For 12 pieces of dough covered with frosting.

Oh, and all sorts of oddball toppings such as Rice Krispies and Fruit Loops and Cocoa Puffs. My dad’s head was undoubtedly spinning……

voo-doo-donut-fruit-loops

I bit the bullet and made my purchase. When I got to my friend’s house, she poured me a cup of very good coffee and we had our doughnuts in her back yard. I will admit that the yeast doughnuts were quite tasty. The cake doughnuts, well, maybe a bit of a disappointment. Perhaps it was the grape Kool Aid coating. And you think I’m kidding.

box-voo-doo-donuts

Our favorite doughnuts these days come from Basha’s markets in Arizona, where, shockingly, my brother works. But I know doughnuts, and I know they are exceptionally good. And they cost – wait for it – 75 cents apiece. But no Fruit Loops.

By the way, since parking was hard to find at Voodoo Doughnuts given that it is located just this side of the state capitol building, I took a chance and parked illegally where a sign warned me not to park. As I walked back to my car, I saw that a patrolman was writing me a ticket. I thought about offering him a Kool Aid doughnut as a bribe, but he pulled away just as I walked up. So add another $50 to my dozen doughnuts!

Forge Ahead

Much as we love spending the winter in Arizona, we are always happy to be back in Denver, for a number of reasons. We are lucky enough to be able to enjoy a second springtime. We see the cactus flowers in Arizona in March and April, and we are back just in time to see the end of the forsythia blossoms and the beginning of the lilacs and the iris. I love to get my garden planted – mostly herbs and a couple of tomato plants – and will put in my petunias just as soon as the tulips die completely back and make room for them.

The pitiful end of my forsythia blossoms

The pitiful end of my forsythia blossoms

Tulips with their BFFs, the dandilions

Tulips with their BFFs, the dandilions

This spring, I have made a few resolutions. It makes sense since most of the resolutions I made in January have been forgotten. Not just neglected; I can’t even remember what they were. Sigh.

I have been feeling like a slug because we got out of the habit of exercising, something we had done faithfully for a long time. And I have been putting on weight, something I conveniently blame on my low fiber diet (rich in carbs and sugar), forgetting that one can eat low fiber without eating ice cream every night after dinner. Sigh again.

So I am facing the upcoming warm months with renewed energy and commitment. I started by going to the gym Monday, and plan to go every Monday, Wednesday and Friday beginning right now. Tuesdays and Thursdays I will lift my measly little weights at home. Hey. It can’t hurt.

Furthermore, while I’m not going on a diet (diets don’t work for me; all I think about is food), I am simply going to cook healthier meals.

While in Mesa, I walked over to our nearby Basha’s most every day of the week. I am determined to walk to the grocery store here as well. King Soopers and Whole Foods are a bit farther away than Basha’s, but no matter. Even if I don’t do it every time, I can do it regularly.

There are simple things around the house that will get me better organized. For example, when I want to remember to take something upstairs, I put Whatever-It-Is on the steps. And then I step over them again and again because heaven forbid I would bend over to pick Whatever-It-is up. And then I would just have to PUT WHATEVER-IT-IS AWAY!

No more! Whatever-It-Is will go up with me the next time I climb the stairs.

And speaking of the stairs, I am determined to stop thinking of walking up the stairs as undertaking the Bataan Death March. The other morning I used the last tissue from the box in the kitchen. I found myself using paper towels or toilet tissue to wipe my nose until I finally realized that it wasn’t going to kill me to walk the exactly 14 steps up to the linen closet upstairs where I keep my boxes of tissues. Our house in Mesa is small, and 14 steps will get you practically anywhere in the house. But I don’t live in Windsor Palace, so the stairs will become my friend.

Sometimes I come to the sudden realization that my glasses are so dirty I can practically not see out of them. I am going to use my handy-dandy microfiber cloth to clean my glasses each and every morning before I put them on.

As part of my healthier eating, I found a recipe for a casserole that uses ground chicken for the meatballs. I halved the recipe and we enjoyed it for dinner, with plenty for leftovers.

Chicken Parmesan Meatball Casserole, courtesy Buns In My Oven

chicken parmesan meatball casserole

Ingredients
For the meatballs:
1 pound lean ground chicken
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup milk
For the casserole:
1 pound campanelle pasta (any small shape is fine, such as ziti)
1 jar (24 ounces) marinara sauce
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

Process
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook for 1 minute less than package directions state.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the meatballs. Add all of the ingredients to a large bowl and use your hands to mix them together well. Form into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until cooked through and no longer pink. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Add the pasta sauce to a large bowl and stir in the cooked pasta and meatballs. Stir gently to coat everything in sauce.

Spread half of the pasta and meatballs into a 9×13 baking dish. Top with half of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve immediately.