carolinainmymind

can't you see the sunshine….

Ben’s Birthday

Ben’s birthday was July 1. We celebrated on the 30th by having brunch at Poole’s Diner in downtown Raleigh. https://ac-restaurants.com/pooles/

We were a big group so we had to wait for a table. So we had a drink while we were waiting. It was not hard to get Ben in and out of the restaurant. Food and service were good. Sorry no food pics. I felt like it was a nice size meal, without feeling stuffed and without dragging home left overs. I would certainly go back.

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Finally!

Okay, I know I am writing about a very first world problem. I’ll say that right up front. But it is what I know and what I can write about……………….

BUTTER

Yes, butter. We eat butter. We have eaten it for years, years. Like Julia Childs I try to use it in moderation. That said, I appreciate good butter. Butter in Italy was CRAP! The only way I can describe it, waxy. It just wasn’t good. No matter what brand. And that is because there is such good olive oil, that many folks produced them selves. So why bother with butter.

When Ben and I visited Ireland with his sister in 2004, we rented a house. First thing, I bought several different kinds of butter. So we could taste test. (And several different types of cider too) There were some good butters there. When we used to stay in France, again, all different types of butter. Then we landed in Italy. Butter, a small disappointment. Really not good.

When you live in Italy it is easy to vacation in France. We drove. Heh, six hours away to the south of France. It dawned on me that we could buy French butter and bring it back to Italy. So for a number of years I did that. I was happy with a commercially mass produced brand, President. President made basic salted and unsalted butter and they also made a ‘sea salt’ version. That is butter with sea salt crystals incorporated in it. Discrete, taste them on your tongue salt crystals. I like salt. I will choose something salty over something sweet any day. So this butter was just the best.

After two years back in the US, I had actually forgotten about my favorite butter. Then I was reading a French blog online and reminded of it all over again. I thought longingly of that butter. Looked on the President web site to see if it was sold anywhere nearby. Well, basic butter is the sea salt crystal, no. So it was pushed to the forgotten corners of my mind. Then….

I was in the Harris-Teeter looking for President butter. IT WAS GONE! DISAPPEARED off the shelf. Of course I had to discuss this with the dairy products guy. He seemed to think it was a warehouse issue, not a discontinued forever issue. (Good for him, because my reply will soon be ‘Well, you might well just drive me to Wegmans’ which will be open in the fall) Anyway, I found Vermont Creamery Cultured Butter. Heh, give it a try. It sat in the fridge for two days before it occurred to me to try it.

OH MY!!!!!!

BUTTER WITH SEA SALT CRYSTALS IN IT!

DISCRETE, SEA SALT CRYSTALS THAT DANCE ON YOUR TONGUE

I almost cried. Really, I am so happy I have found this butter. This is the butter to put on a warm croissant. To put in hot baked potato. To melt and pour over popcorn. And the best of all, a hot ear of corn on the cob.

So tonight, we watch the ACC final and eat baked potatoes, I’ll have mine with the Vermont Creamery Sea Salt Butter thank you.

 

 

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We did something

Why is this a big deal…because we rarely go out and do anything. By that I mean, go to a movie or an exhibit or a play or concert. We just don’t do those things. It is not because of Ben’s lack of mobility. We never did. I can’t recall a concert that we have ever been to together. We have probably seen more movies in the last two years than we have before. That is only because Ben was winning tickets from the newspaper. I guess it is good that we are both very happy to stay in our house and amuse ourselves. But every now and then something comes along and I get us organized and we do something.

Chef Vivian Howard was being honored at my college, Meredith. The tickets were very affordable and included heavy hors d’oeuvre at the alumnae house before hand. How could we refuse.

For those who are not in the area, Vivian grew up in Eastern North Carolina and then left as soon as she could. She worked in NYC and married a nice man named Ben (can’t go wrong marrying a Ben). Her parents offered to help them open a restaurant as long as it was in her home town of Kinston, North Carolina. So she and Ben came back and did that. http://www.vivianhoward.com/#

Anyway, they have 2 restaurants in Kinston and one in Wilmington. She has written a book and had a very popular TV show on PBS, A Chef’s Life. When we lived in Italy, if the clouds were just right and the wind was not too strong and the internet gods were smiling I was able to watch her program. Her sweet Eastern North Carolina accent always brought me back to Carolina and helped me realize that was where we needed to be. So we went to see her.

Couldn’t take pictures during the presentation. It was just the right length. Vivian was interviewed by the President of the College. It was quiet enjoyable.

Meredith also announced a new degree program.

I am really excited for the college about this program. Had it been available when I was there I would have gotten that degree. If I still wanted to work, I would be applying. Such a good thing.

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Hmmm, getting excited

Well excitment is building…..

Hiring has started for Wegmans. The excitment is building. Our Harris-Teeter is going to be remodeled. I guess they think they might have some serious competition. I’m telling you, Raleigh will soon be a great place to grocery shop. Now, if we could just get decent wine at a decent price….

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Happy Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year was the first full week of February this year. The year of the pig. We celebrated on the first Sunday of February by having friends over for lunch.

For Christmas my Uncle John had sent us a check so I decided to use that money to replace a few pieces of my Chinese fish china that were broken during storage or the move. I thought that would be easy to do. It is a very common pattern. Or was a very common pattern. I had to order it from Pearl River Trading Company in New York City. I was very pleased when I received all the pieces, so I was excited to be able to set a nice table.

The recumbent Dragon Fruit and the pineapple became dessert.
Also used the Asian beer glasses that came from Nice, France.

I never got around to printing up menus. But we had Hot and Sour Soup, Thai Chicken Larb on a bed of noodles, Vietnamese Eggplant Salad, Gingered Yard Long Beans, Pork Tenderloin with Chinese BBQ Sauce on a bed of Roasted Butternut Squash and Roasted Baby Bok Choy. I am lucky to have at least two well stocked Asian grocery stores.

Besides fruit for dessert, there were egg custard tarts, almond cookies and ….

There were 3 kinds of Asian beers. And of course some wine. How can you go wrong spending a Sunday with friends eating and drinking?

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What’s up

Well, I have finally bought a camera so maybe I will be updating this more often.  Certainly glad that Guppy is keeping up with her guest posts.  She has such a difficult life you know.  So much to complain about.  Yeah, RIGHT!

We haven’t been doing too much.  October was just one appointment after another.  I am glad that is over.  Still warm weather here.  We might, might, have a frost this coming weekend.  I went ahead and pulled flowers out the boxes and dug the elephant ear bulbs.  Quiet a lot of elephant ear bulbs.  We’ll see how many come up next spring.

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For next year, I am thinking of planting the large elephant ears in pots along the ugly fence and putting the darker leaf ones in the planter boxes with caladiums.

Before  one appointment we managed to eat at Mr. Dumpling in Apex.  Hmmmmm, a very good Chinese restaurant.

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Several different dumplings are offered.  And classic Chinese preparations

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Eggplant with chili garlic sauce

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Dried Fried Green Beans

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And one of my all time favs, Beef Chow Fun.  I knew we would over order.  We always do.  I was prepared for left overs which provided us with two more meals.  It was wonderful.  We will be back there this week.   I’m excited about that.

I hope November is calmer……

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Good Eating

I will admit that I miss food in Italy.  Everytime I consider going to Lidl (grocery store) I remember that in Italy, we would plan our Lidl trip to include a stop at the edge of the parking lot for lunch at the seafood store.  Gosh, we miss their fried calamari.  I miss a nice piece of grilled meat.  I miss good, thin pizza.  I miss eating lunch at Menchetti.  I miss the clean, simple seasonal food of Tuscany.  So every now and then,  I break down and make something Italian.  And if I am going to cook that much we should have folks over.

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Italian antipasta on Chinese fish china

 

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After antipasta we had an asparagus risotto, followed by braciole

What are known as braciole in the United States are called involtini in Italy.[2][3][4] Involtini can be thin slices of beef, pork, or chicken rolled with a filling of grated cheese (usually Parmesan cheese or Pecorino Romano), sometimes egg to give consistency and some combination of additional ingredients such as bread crumbs, other cheeses, minced prosciuttoham or Italian sausagemushroomsonionsgarlicspinachpinoli (pine nuts), etc. Involtini (diminutive form of involti) means “little bundles”. Each involtino is held together by a wooden toothpick, and the dish is usually served (in various sauces: red, white, etc.) as a second course. When cooked in tomato sauce, the sauce itself is used to toss the pasta for the first course, giving a consistent taste to the whole meal

(Thanks Wikipedia)

and sausages and salad.  Finishing with olive oil cake and strawberries.  Since we had a risotto I saw no need for a pasta.  Anyway, my picture taking stopped after getting the antipasta ready.  Our friends, Debby and Pat and Jim and BK came.  I was pleased that the table worked well for 6 people.  We could even have managed 8 around it, but I don’t have 8 plates.

Anyway, all of that combined with a few left overs satisfied my Italian food desires for a while.  Although I am considering getting a small grill to use this summer.  I do miss a properly grilled steak.

 

 

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Deep thoughts while unpacking

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I wondered if I had run out of boxes and staged a raid on the Post Office.  Then I remembered that Ben had a stack of these in his office in our Virginia house  (he used to mail out info about computer systems that he sold).  Fearing that he would pack these up and move them I probably ‘appropriated’ them for use  packing my Chinese fish platters.

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I unpacked boxes from places where I worked, not just in Virginia but also in North Carolina before we moved to Virginia.  Boxes, Ben had used moving back to the US from Germany even before I met him.  Boxes, used by our Virginia neighbor who moved back from SE Asia just as we were packing up to move to Italy.  Boxes used by John and Richard  (we rented from them in Italy) who had moved all over the world several times.  Boxes from Florida when I packed up my parents’ house.  Boxes Boxes Boxes.  Each one I opened, I thought about the connection it had to us.  About how far that box had traveled.  About the people that I had known.  About the times I had spent with them.  And that is just in the outside of the box.

Inside oh the treasures!  (Oh, the “why did I pack and keep this?”)  I was most excited to find

 

 

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My collection of Revere Ware pots and pans.  I was really afraid that these had been sold or given away.  I am so happy to see these again.  It is a nice set and a duplicate set which was my Mother’s.  For now I am keeping both of them but some of them might have to go.

 

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This hammered aluminum Dutch oven cooked many meals for my family as I was growing up.  Many a Sunday roast.  I can remember my mother experiencing some amount of distress if the church service ran long….”oh, the roast will be dry!”   Very happy to see this again.

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And look at this, it is Siena’s hair, snagged on a piece of furniture and packed away for almost ten years.

UPDATE 2/5/18

I wrote this back in the summer.  Super Bowl weekend I finally got around to cooking a roast in the pot that my mother used.

 

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It turned out well.  I think my parents would have enjoyed it.

There are still boxes tucked away that need to be dealt with.  I am torn between dealing with boxes or working on the projects that still need to be done.  Maybe I’ll try to do a bit of both.

 

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Another food post

I don’t write as many of those as I used to, do I?  ‘Toto, I guess we aren’t in Italy anymore.’  We don’t get out that much and American food is just not that special.  A few weeks ago we did meet Jim and BK in Creedmoor for Mexican food.  ( click here if you want to see their site)  El Corral.  It was, as always, excellent.  I’m sorry that I didn’t take a picture.  When we used to come back for visits we always tried our best to stop by here since the food is good.  And it still is.

Anyway, we are still trying to find our pizza of choice.

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The box on the right is a brand that we used to get at the Esselunga in Italy.  The contents are on the left of the board.  I have to dress it up for Ben by adding more ham and cheese.  The box to the left and the pizza to the right of the board is Harris-Teeter’s brand.  It would have been excellent except for the American tendency to gild the lily and take dishes one step too far!  The zesty sauce!  What is wrong with good, simple ingredients?  Good cheese.  Good tomato sauce. Simple crust.  No need for some overly garlicy/basil sauce.  None of the take out that we have tried is acceptable.  The hunt continues.

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My tomatoes are just about finished but the green beans have started to come in.  Last night there were enough to make an Asian style dish, Gingered Pork with Green Beans and Carrots.   It was very tasty.

We are still shopping at the Harris-Teeter.  Ground has not even been broken on the Wegmans yet.  Every now  and then I venture into Trader Joes.  Now that we have a car that is not an oven on wheels we might try to get up to the Lidl in Wake Forest more often.  Our friends Jim and BK like Sprouts.  We have still not been to it, although Ben is keen to go.  (Ben is keen to go many places but he is not the one who has to load and unload his wheel chair and all his paraphernalia.  Our trips have to be tied into other errands or appointments)

I did catch on that I can order deli items online and then just pick them up at the Harris-Teeter without standing in line.  And I make our grocery list online too.  If I had a whoop de doo phone I could just have it on my phone.  Still old school, I print it out.

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I also find that while shopping I need to remind myself that the Harris-Teeter is only a few blocks and that I don’t need to over buy.  I have found that we are throwing away more food (spoiled) than I would like.  No exciting food here.  And I know we are very lucky to be in this position to be able to whine about boring food….

 

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Summer has arrived

Written July 20, 2017

 

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Finally, a peach sandwich.  One of my absolute favs.  One thing that I missed so much in Italy.  Yes, Michael, Italy has peaches but a strange variety that was never juicy and flavourful.  And we rarely visited the US in the summer so I don’t think I have had one of these for ten years or so.  I make cinnamon toast, then slice the peach on it, sprinkle some more cinnamon on and ohhhhh, Heaven right here in Carolina!   One of the things I was most excited about coming back for.  It’s the small stuff that makes life worth living for.

 

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