Posts Tagged ‘really poor photography’

Since it’s almost Thanksgiving here in the U.S., and time is in short supply for me and possibly for you, I only have a very short post today. It’s a guessing game, really. I am going to post a photo with no commentary (aside from this commentary, which is getting long, but, eh, you know what you’re in for when you visit this blog) and you guess the story behind the photo. And then there will be a little giveaway for people who participate. 

Here’s how the giveaway will work: You can guess until midnight Eastern Time Friday. At some point, probably in December, I will number all the guesses/comments chronologically and randomize them and choose one person, and then I will send that person a little giftie. A very little giftie, and I haven’t decided what it will be: maybe an assortment of little things from Michael’s or Target. Maybe something specific to the winner, if I have any ideas of what the winner might enjoy. Maybe something yummy, maybe something practical, I don’t know. A mystery giftie. I am going to limit the gift-sending to people who live in the U.S. and Canada, however; I’m sorry! I am not confident enough in my ability to mail something to/find an appropriate retailer in other countries. 

If you don’t want to guess, you can still enter the giveaway. Just leave a comment of any sort. And if you want to guess and/or comment, but don’t want to enter the giveaway – which I understand, because the giveaway award is extremely vague even in my own mind – just let me know in your comment. The only stipulation to entering is that you must be willing to share your address with me. 

Then, at some point in the (hopefully near) future, I will tell you the story behind the photo and choose a giveaway recipient. 

Okay. Here’s the photo. And here’s a hint: I took this photo the day before my parents arrived for Thanksgiving.

Happy guessing!

What’s the story behind this photo? (As always, please forgive my poor photography skills.)

It seems as though I am doing NaBloPoMo this month, which is 30 blog posts in 30 days. (Will I make it??? Only time will tell.) Details at San’s blog here.

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French onion soup is in the air. Perhaps because many of us are reading the same blogs as part of NaBloPoMo, I have read about French onion soup in two separate posts recently and it really got me in the mood. (Can I remember which blogs, or find them via a cursory look? No, I cannot.)

French onion is one of my favorite soups, and I have never been able to make it the way I think it should taste, although I keep trying. There are two French onion soups that I have had in my life that I am aiming to replicate. One bowl was at the Pluckemin Inn in Bedminster, NJ. The other was at the Marriott Hotel restaurant in Delray Beach, FL; the former still exists, although I do not know if they continue to offer the amazing onion soup. The latter has changed hands a few times since I went there in the early aughts.

What they had in common was an exultant richness of broth. Dark, heavy to the point of almost being thick. No meat in either soup, and yet with a distinct meaty unctuousness. Oh, how I loved those soups. 

I have experimented with making my own French onion soup, but have never quite been able to match the flavor of those two idyllic soups. I’m getting closer, though…

One thing you should know about me is that I do not like soggy food. So I do not top my onion soup with a cheesy crouton. When I eat soup at restaurants I sort of peel the cheese off the bread and eat that, and then… sort of eat the broth around the bread. I know. I am very strange. 

Since I am planning on making French onion soup this week, I thought I would post the recipe. (Do not fret, though; there is LOTS of cheesy goodness in my soup.)

I make a modified version of Ina Garten’s soup.

This soup tastes so much better than it looks.

Super Rich and Cheesy French Onion Soup

(approximately 6 servings)


  • 2 slices bacon
  • 6 onions, cut in half, then sliced into ¼ inch strips1
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-6 sprigs of fresh thyme 
  • 1 cup medium-dry sherry (Ina calls for ½ cup brandy and ½ cup sherry; I do not have brandy)
  • 1 ½ cups white2 wine (wine you would drink; I usually use Chardonnay)
  • 8 cups beef stock (Ina calls for 4 cups beef stock and 4 cups veal stock)
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Shredded gruyere cheese, to taste (I like a lot of cheese)
  • French baguette, cut into ½ inch slices


  • Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a large stockpot, cook bacon until brown (5-10 minutes on medium low; watch carefully or your bacon may burn). 
  • Remove bacon to a paper towel; eat both slices while you cook, or crush them into bits to sprinkle over your soup later. 
  • Add 1 Tbsp of butter to the bacon grease in the pot; increase heat to medium-high. Add sliced onions, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs, and stir, occasionally, for about 30-45 minutes until they are much reduced in size and a deep, caramelized brown. 
  • Deglaze the pan with the sherry, scraping up any browned bits, and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Add the wine and simmer, uncovered, for an additional 15 minutes.
  • Add the beef stock. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.
  • Heat slices of baguette in the oven on a baking sheet for five minutes or until they are light golden brown. 
  • When soup is ready, ladle it into oven-safe bowls. Sprinkle with shredded gruyere; some of it will get caught in strands of onion, some of it will sink to the bottom and add a nice little cheesy layer.
  • Add a slice of baguette to the top of the soup and sprinkle liberally with shredded gruyere3. Move your bowl to the baking sheet and broil for 3-5 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. 
  • Remove from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes (ha, as if) before eating. 


  1. Make sure you get a variety of types of onions, except red – I usually get two white onions, two Spanish onions, and two sweet onions. You should aim for 6 to 8 cups of onions, if that helps you with onion sizing.
  2. Next time I make this, I might try red wine instead of white; I am hopeful it will lend some additional richness to the broth. 
  3. If you don’t like soggy bread, top additional toasted slices of baguette with gruyere and add them to the baking sheet; broil until melted and bubbly. The cheesy slices are good for dipping into the soup, or for eating by themselves.

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You will wonder, in a moment, why I am calling this “My Take on the TikTok Baked Feta Pasta” when my version has neither feta nor tomatoes in it – two crucial ingredients in the original aforementioned TikTok pasta, the third and fourth being “pasta” and “olive oil.” 

You will likely wonder why I even glanced toward the TikTok Baked Feta Pasta, when I neither have TikTok nor can I stand tomatoes nor do I particularly care for feta. 

And yet, here we are, with me sharing a recipe (“recipe”) for my own version of a recipe I have neither tried nor wanted to try nor followed. 

Perhaps – you might think, trying to wrap your mind around my motives and this post – what appealed to me about the TTBFP is its simplicity. You put a few ingredients in a dish. You toss them in some olive oil. You throw the whole thing in an oven and then, 20 minutes later, stir in some pasta and voila! you have a meal. 

Well, you could be right, except that I went and made the TTBFP much more complicated, eliminating its simplicity right from the get go. 

I think it’s time to stop trying to understand me; I sure don’t, and I’ve lived with me for 40 years. Let’s get to the recipe. (“Recipe.”)

Baked Mushroom & Goat Cheese Pasta


Approximately three, if each serving takes up about half a soup bowl.


  • 12 oz mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 4 oz plain goat cheese
  • 1 head of garlic (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Pasta of your choice (I used cellentani because it is pretty and fun to say)
  • Arugula (optional)


  • Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Spray a 9 x 13 baking pan with vegetable spray, just because you distrust olive oil’s food-sticking-prevention abilities.
  • Throw your chopped onions and sliced mushrooms into the baking pan. Add salt, pepper, and a couple tablespoons of olive oil and mix it all together with your hands. 
  • Make a small space in the center of the veggies. Nestle your goat cheese right in there. It’s okay if the veggies want to snuggle right up to the goat cheese. 
Wouldn’t you like to snuggle up to a nice goat cheese pillow?
  • If you are using garlic, slice across the top of the whole head of garlic with a sharp knife, exposing some of the cloves. Nestle the entire head of decapitated garlic (how can a head itself be decapitated? I trust you understand.) into a corner of the pan.
  • Drizzle everything with another tablespoon or two of olive oil.
  • Drizzle everything with a teaspoon or so of balsamic glaze. Who’s kidding who here. I did not measure. Just drizzle until you feel like you’re done. I did some sloppy crisscrosses and called it good. 
Glazey crisscrosses!

  • Shove the pan into the oven and set a timer for 25 minutes.
  • Boil some salted water. I don’t know how much; however much you need to cover however much pasta you use. I used half a box of pasta which turned out to be FAR too much pasta, because I forgot how dramatic mushrooms are. They get very hysterical about being baked and shrink to almost nothing. I would say a quarter of a box of pasta would suffice, if you like your pasta nice and sauce-y.
  • Add your pasta to the boiling water and cook it for two minutes under whatever duration the box recommends.
  • When your pasta is done, drain your pasta BUT RESERVE SOME PASTA WATER. I always reserve way more pasta water than I need, just in case. 
  • Check on your pan at the 25-minute mark. If the mushrooms and onions are starting to brown and your goat cheese is resembling a puddle, it’s probably done. I had to cook mine longer than I thought, but I also accidentally turned off the timer at some point and have no idea how long it actually baked. It could have been 20 minutes, it could have been 30. I considered, at one point, turning the heat up to 450 F for a while, to see if I could caramelize the onions a bit more. But I was concerned about how those little drama queens (mushrooms) might react (burning into charcoal).
The goat cheese looked much more melty in person. Also, the mushrooms are being deceptive here. They still seem plentiful. But they are NOT.
Different view of those now much diminished mushrooms.
  • Remove your pan from the oven and marvel in an irritated way at how drastically your mushrooms have shrunk. 
  • Remove the garlic. Use the tip of a sharp knife to dislodge some of the cloves from their papery outfits and add them back to the pan. I used about 1/5 of the garlic, I’d say, because it seemed like an appropriate amount of garlic for the quantity of mushrooms remaining. Plus, I am going to use roasted garlic in some focaccia this week – I have been saying I would make focaccia for a year and I have NOT DONE IT YET, despite wanting to and planning to and even putting it on my meal plan twice, but THIS IS THE WEEK, it is happening – so I saved the rest of the garlic for that purpose. 
  • Stir everything together. Add some reserved pasta water to achieve the sauce consistency you prefer. 
The goat cheese stirs up so nicely. Far better than FETA, I’m sure.
  • Add some pasta to your pan and stir some more. Add more reserved pasta water if you like. 
Are you beginning, now, to see just how FEW mushrooms remain? It’s like half of them took the day off.
This is it. Even with the pasta, it takes up less than half of the pan. Also, it’s not the most photogenic meal.
  • Put your mixed pasta into a dish. If you are so inclined, add a handful of arugula. 
Now it’s pasta salad! No, just kidding. I do think the arugula adds a nice peppery contrast to the richness of the pasta.
  • Drizzle the bowl with more balsamic glaze. Enjoy!

Will I make this again? I can’t honestly say, at this point. It was tasty! And it was filling! The goat cheese makes it super rich and creamy, so one serving was plenty. It was easy! (Though the mushrooms, all on their own, the prima donnas, make it time consuming.) But on the side of NOT making it again, it is so disheartening to spend eight hours washing and peeling and slicing mushrooms only to have them minify in the oven. How is minify an actual word? I seriously thought I was just being lazy, but it has a dictionary entry and everything. I also wish the onions had had a chance to caramelize a bit more. 

If I made it again, maybe I would have to use EVEN MORE mushrooms. And maybe I would cut them into larger chunks. Using more would increase the amount of prep time… but it might also increase my enjoyment? Hard to say until we try. And we may never try. After all, have we learned nothing from the focaccia intentions?

In all, it was fun to try. It was yummy. And now the recipe has been recorded for posterity. 

The end.

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I woke up at five this morning after dreaming something ridiculous that I won’t go into here. (It wasn’t salacious, sadly. Just odd.) The key part was that my husband was somehow melded into my high school boyfriend in that weird way of dreams. So that when I woke up my brain decided to replay in gory detail how awful I was to said boyfriend when I went away to college. There’s nothing I can do about it now, and also I don’t think it was really THAT bad, and also we were friendly years afterwards so I don’t think there are lasting scars on his end, plus we are both married and I haven’t thought about him in countless months. But thank you, brain, for steeping me in shame at so early an hour so I can bask in it all day long.

Last night I made an excellent recipe for zucchini noodles. Let me state for the record here that I have no patience for foods masquerading as other foods. I love zucchini, and therefore I enjoy zucchini noodles (although in their noodleishness they are difficult to eat). But I’m not going to try to convince you that they are a good or even fair approximation of noodles themselves. I’m not going to replace them in my recipe for spaghetti and meat sauce, for instance. I am not going to dress them with cheese and pretend they bear any resemblance to macaroni and cheese. They are not noodles. They are zucchini in noodle form. If you don’t like zucchini, you will probably not enjoy them. I discovered this the hard way, by trying cauliflower rice a few years ago. NEVER AGAIN, Internet. Never again. I don’t like cauliflower and spending nearly an hour rasping it against a box grater and getting cauliflower shards all over my kitchen did not change that in the least. I keep hearing about cauliflower mashed potatoes and cauliflower pizza crust and while I am intrigued, I am NOT going to fall for it. STOP PRETENDING, cauliflower. Just be who you are.

ANYWAY. The recipe I tried last night is really good, but it is good in a zucchini way. If you like zucchini you should try it: Easy 10 Minute Asian Zucchini Noodles from Gimme Delicious.

What do you do when you find a recipe you like, and you want to try it again? I’m really curious, by the way. Do you have a list on your phone? A folder on your desktop? A physical file folder into which you stow printed recipes?

I really want to know, because I haven’t found a good system.

As pretty much sole cook for our household, this is the kind of boring thing I spend a lot of time thinking about. As I’ve mentioned previously, we eat a lot of meals that look like Chicken + Vegetable. That is a combination that gets boring realllllllllly quickly, so I am always on the lookout for new, delicious ways to shake up the boring. But there are three problems I’ve run into:

  1. What is the best way to keep track of recipes that look good but I haven’t tried?
  2. What is the best way to separately track recipes that I have tried and want to use again?
  3. What is the best way to avoid re-making a recipe that I have tried and was terrible?

Okay, maybe they are three variations on the same problem. What it comes down to is that I need some sort of filing system. One that is more efficient and comprehensive and located in one, easy-to-access spot than what I currently use.

What I do now is a combination of things. First, I have a folder on my laptop where I bookmark recipes that I want to try. Since I follow a bunch of food blogs on Feedly, it’s really easy for me to put things into my Recipes folder.

But it’s super unwieldy. I have SO MANY recipes. And there’s no rhyme or reason to them, either. Chicken dishes and veggie sides and frosting recipes and how-to posts for making rainbow layer cakes and the best marinades for steak are all jumbled together in the same folder, and many of those are recipes I’ve tried and either liked or NOT.

Meal planning 3

This blog post is chock FULL of really boring, really poorly lit and off-kilter photos! I know my photography skillz keep you coming back!

You may be thinking, Why not just go in and set up some additional folders? And you would be smart for thinking that, and also I tried that and it isn’t working. First, I had been collecting recipes for about a year before I went in and tried to organize them, so it was already a jumbled mess. Second, the organization tools at my disposal are not particularly user friendly. I can’t easily grab a recipe or ten and drag and drop them into the Veggie Sides folder, for instance. Getting things into the appropriate folder involves a lot of scrolling and it is tedious and time consuming. Third, I still run into the issue of what to do with things I’ve already tried. Sure, I could set up a sub-folder in each category for Make Again and Don’t Make Again… but that gets to be even more unwieldy and also I am kind of lazy.

Meal planning 4

To the left is an example of what’s inside one of my folders. Supposedly, this contains favorite recipes that I should return to again and again. This is the first time I’ve opened this folder in many months, so it’s not really working as planned. Also, you may notice that I occasionally (okay, more often than reasonable) bookmark something I’ve already bookmarked. I REALLY need a better system.

PLUS, I am not always on my computer doing stuff. I do a lot of recipe finding on my phone. So I have a folder of recipes on my phone, too… and getting them to my computer is not simple. I really need a system that works across devices.

The best part of my system is my weekly dinner plan email. Each week before I go grocery shopping, I create an email to myself that lists all the meals and includes links to online recipes. Sometimes I’ll open the email a few days in advance, if I already know that I’ll be making something specific, or if it’s a week where I’m feeding people beyond my own immediate family. I always reply to the previous week’s dinner email, so there’s a single record of everything I’ve ever planned to eat since March of 2017 when I started it.

Then, after the week’s meals, I try to write notes to myself about what worked and what didn’t. So after last night’s zucchini noodles success, I responded the email and wrote, DELICIOUS! MAKE AGAIN.

This email is also really useful for any modifications I do to a recipe. For instance, last year I found this Martha Stewart recipe for crockpot garlic chicken that sounded so good, but wasn’t. But instead of giving up on it, I kept tinkering with it until I got it right. And I put those notes to myself in my dinner planning email. If I get any feedback on the recipe from my husband, I put those in the notes. So it’s all there in one place.

Meal Planning 2

I first tried the Martha Stewart recipe in May of 2017. My reaction was that it was too sweet. Hot tip: “More lemon juice” can solve most of the world’s ills. At least foodwise.

Dinner Planning Email 1

Here is where I recorded the modifications that made the Martha Stewart recipe not only edible but delicious. Ah memories. This is also the day when I discovered my husband — whom I’ve known for SEVENTEEN YEARS — doesn’t really like soup.

(Sometimes, when I have the wherewithal, I post the modified recipe here. Like with the “chicken tikka masala” recipe I revamped to suit my own needs. It got to be too annoying to look at the original recipe and try to remember what I changed each time I made it.)

So my meal planning email is the best part of my meal planning system. But it’s not perfect. Sometimes I have to scroll and scroll through old emails to find what I’m looking for. And, because I haven’t mastered the art of organizing what I haven’t tried, I tend to go back to the same things over and over.

I’ve contemplated doing a weekly meal plan blog post. Many bloggers do this, and I always enjoy reading them. And I could always add notes to myself in the comments. But again, this does nothing for the stacks and stacks of recipes I have yet to try.

There’s got to be an app that handles this, right? But I don’t want to look for and evaluate and try a bunch of them. And honestly, thinking about moving all my carefully curated but as-yet-untried recipes to a new place sounds exhausting. But I WANT something better and I suppose I am willing to do a certain amount of work to make it happen.

How do YOU keep track of what you’re cooking? What’s working and what isn’t? Have you come across a magic app that does it all? If you have a meal planning and tracking system you love, I am HERE FOR IT.

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