My First Year in New Jersey

This post is very similar in content to the “Holiday Newsletter” I sent out this year to folks for whom I have snail mail addresses.  The rest of my friends/family/Facebook acquaintences are being directed here.  I hope 2018 allows me to get back to posting about my adventures in gluten-free, dairy-free, corn-free baking and cooking!

Me standing in front of my new home in Whiting NJ. It is one story, slate blue and white, with an attached garage.My New Home in Whiting NJ

2016 and 2017 have been extremely busy, exciting, and exhausting years for me. In 2016 I moved from my 100-year-old house in snowy Minneapolis, MN to live nearer to my family in New Jersey.  On September 26, 2016, after a three-day drive (1200 miles) with my old cat Marvel, I arrived at my parents’ house in Manahawkin, NJ where we stayed for six months while I looked for a house nearby.  On February 14, 2017 I finally closed on a house in Whiting, NJ, 20 minutes away.  Marvel and I moved in at the end of March.

The house (built in 1980) needed a new refrigerator, roof, garage door, and hot water heater as well as all new carpet, a fresh coat of paint inside, and many other minor repairs. There are still many projects to complete and quite a few boxes waiting to be unpacked (once I figure out where to put all that is in them), but it’s starting to feel more like “home”.

Besides moving into and working on the house, the year has meant reconnecting with family and getting to know my new surroundings including:

  • October 2016  Aunt Irene and Cousin Amy came to visit to celebrate mom’s birthday. (Sadly, this is the last picture we have of my Aunt Irene.  She died on November 11, 2017 after a brief fight with an aggressive cancer.) Pictured: My sister Nancy, cousin Amy, Mom, Dad, Aunt Irene, and me.
  • December 2016  My sister Nancy and I went up to the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City for an exhibit about the Brontës and some bead shopping in the fashion district.
  • January 21, 2017  I participated in the Women’s March on Washington with childhood friend Karin Howells Kelleher, her three daughters, and other friends.
  • April 2017  A trip to the African American Museum in Philadelphia for the “Wage Peace” exhibit
  • May 2017  Another trip to the Morgan Museum in NYC.  This time for an exhibit about Emily Dickinson.  Also went to several exhibits at the New York Public Library.
  • Father’s Day 2017 Mom & Dad & I attended a Lakewood Blueclaws Baseball Game where we met several other veterans (all identifiable by their military caps)
  • July 2017 Janet visited from Illinois. Picture below: Nancy, me, Dad, Janet, Courtney the Cat, Mom
  • August 2017 My good friend Linnea visited.  We installed a new closet organizer in my bedroom, watched baseball, and went to Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens, an incredible series of buildings and courtyard filled with mosaics.
  • Labor Day Weekend 2017 Stand Against Hate Rally in Asbury Park; and visit from nephew Matthew
  • October 15, 2017 Rally with Al Gore and Phil Murphy
  • October 21, 2017  Beach Cleanup at Island Beach State Park
  • Christmas 2017  Thought I would add these pics to round out the year.

A Few Gratitudes

  • Despite MANY doctor’s and dentist’s appointments with mom and dad (and lots of “daily emergencies,” there have been no new serious illnesses.
  • Marvel survived both the long drive and six months living in one little room.  She still has kidney disease, cataracts, arthritis and a bit of “kitty dementia”, but she still loves to snuggle and purr.  In fact, she would prefer I do nothing but hold her all day.
  • Several trips to the beach.  I had hoped to get myself to the beach at least once a week, but that hasn’t happened.  Still, every walk along the ocean and every moment spent listening to the waves gives me some peace. We even managed to get Dad down to the beach late in the Fall 2016.  That’s Barnegat Lighthouse behind them in the slideshow below.
  •  Of course I have to mention my joy when the CHICAGO CUBS WON THE 2016 WORLD SERIES!!!!!!!  (We don’t mention anything else that happened in November 2016.)

The year also included lots of gluten-free, dairy-free, baking and cooking . . . but I’ll summarize that in a separate post.

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Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese

Is anyone else feeling the need for comfort food?  I sure am!!

A few weeks ago my sister made the “Lightened Up Squash Mac and Cheese” recipe from The Chew website and cookbook.  It looked yummy, but I only had a tiny bite (because gluten and dairy).  Ever since I’ve been wanting to try a gluten-free and dairy-free version.  Made it tonight.  Excellent!!

Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese (gluten-free and dairy-free)

adapted from http://abc.go.com/shows/the-chew/recipes/lightened-up-squash-mac-and-cheese-clinton-kelly

Serves 4-6
Time to prepare: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 5/8 cup stock (chicken, veggie, or turkey, whatever you have)
  • 3/4 cup milk (I used diluted coconut milk, but any milk should do fine)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup shredded “cheddar style” non-dairy cheese (I use Daiya brand), divided
  • 1/2 pound elbow-style rice noodles (I used Tinkyada brand)
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free breadcrumbs (I used 4C brand)
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning (or combination of basil, oregano, marjoram, rosemary)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tablespoon dry) (optional)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium-high, add butternut squash, stock, milk and garlic. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the squash is tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions.
  3. Once the squash is tender remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper. Blend using an immersion blender (you may need to transfer it to a deep bowl to prevent splatters). Alternatively, use a regular blender. Blend until smooth.
  4. Stir in about 2/3 of the cheese until melted. Set aside until pasta is ready.
  5. Meanwhile, heat shortening in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add breadcrumbs and dried herbs. Cook until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. When pasta is done, drain and add it directly to the cheesy squash mixture. Stir until everything is combined and melted. Stir in remaining cheese just before serving.
  7. Serve with the toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled on top. Garnish with chopped parsley (if using fresh).

NOTES:

  • The original recipe uses both Gruyère and Parmesan cheese in equal measure, so feel free to modify as you like.
  • I burned the bread crumbs so served it without them. It tasted great.
  • My mom and I agreed that next time we would prepare it earlier and then bake it in a 300°F oven with some of the cheese and/or buttered breadcrumbs or crushed potato chips on top.
  • The amount of salt will vary according to how salty your “cheese” is. I added 1/2 tsp salt and a shake of pepper to the squash.

Enjoy!!

©2017 Lucinda DeWitt

 

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Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

Shrimp and Asparagus Risotto

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus, approx 1/2 lb, tough part of stems removed
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup finely minced onion, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons finely minced flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup white wine (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable stock, heated
  • lemon juice, to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions

  1. Have all ingredients prepped and ready to go before starting. Risotto only takes 22-25 minutes to cook. Remember have the stock hot (never try to make risotto with cold or room temperature stock)!
  2. In a medium sauce pan with a heavy bottom heat 2 Tbls olive oil. Add half of the onion and half of the garlic. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is transparent, about 2 minutes. Stir frequently to keep garlic from burning. Add rice and stir to coat with oil. Sauté until rice is a bit transparent, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add wine, if using, or 1/2 cup stock. Stir. Heat and stir on medium-low until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding the stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding more.
  4. Meanwhile, fill a med/large sauté pan with water. Blanch the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes, drain, cool, then cut into 1″ pieces. Next, in the same pan, heat 2 Tbls oil, sauté the remaining onions and garlic, add shrimp and sauté briefly, 2 – 3 minutes until just barely cooked (they will finish cooking in the risotto). Spritz with lemon juice and remove from heat.
  5. When the risotto is almost done (after 20 minutes taste a piece–it should be creamy and al dente, but not crunchy), stir in the asparagus, shrimp, and parsley. Continue cooking until everything is creamy and cooked through. Add more stock if needed. Salt and pepper to taste and add parmesan, if using. Sprinkle with more lemon juice if desired.

Serve immediately.
Makes 4 servings.

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Condiments: Black Bean Sauce and Chili Garlic Paste

Last night I made my favorite Thai dishes: Evil Jungle Prince with Chicken and Eggplant & Bok Choy with Bean Sauce.  United Noodle (my local Asian grocery) was out of the japanese/chinese eggplants (the long skinny purple ones) so I used Thai eggplants (round and green) instead.  They don’t hold together as well in the dish, but it tasted just as marvelous as ever.

I used to be able to buy jars of Chili Garlic Paste and Yellow Bean Sauce that I liked.  But my preferred brand of Chili Garlic Paste is no longer available and the “starch” included in the Yellow Bean Sauce became suspect.  So now I make my own.

Many of the recipes for these condiments that appear online seem to be trying to imitate BAD additive- and preservative-filled versions that you might find in a jar at the grocery store.  They add thickeners like cornstarch and/or gums.  I decided to just stick to the essential flavors and make these sauces as simply as possible.  Here’s what I do:

Chili Garlic Paste

adapted from Sriracha-style hot sauce (latimes.com) and Mark Bittman’s recipe at nytimes.com

Chili Garlic Paste

I combine the ideas from the two recipes cited above and use a combination of dry and fresh chilies, soaked in boiling water with a few cloves of garlic and then pureed in food processor with salt, sugar, and some oil.  If I’m going to use the paste within a day, I just store it in a glass bowl until I need it.  If I’m going to store any of it, I heat it first (in an attempt to kill off any bacteria from the fresh garlic and chilies) and then store in the freezer.

Here are the proportions I used most recently:

  • 3 large mild dry chiles (e.g. Guajillo), stems removed
  • 6 small hot dry chiles (e.g. Szechuan), stems removed
  • 4 fresh chiles (Thai, serrano, or jalapeño), stems removed
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2-3 Tablespoons oil (sesame, canola)
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar (white or brown)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Put the chiles and garlic in a small bowl and cover with boiling water.  Soak for about 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving some of the water and seeds.
  2. Cut the larger chiles into smaller pieces.
  3. Put all the ingredients into a food processor, blender, or mini-chopper.  Purée until smooth, adding oil or water if needed.
  4. Heat in small saucepan over medium heat until bubbly.  Will keep for several days in the refrigerator or longer in the freezer.

Black Bean Sauce

adapted from recipes from Closet Cooking and Mastercook II

I haven’t found a good explanation of the difference between Thai Yellow Bean Sauce and the more familiar Black Bean Sauce.  I do enjoy Black Bean Sauce, so even though it probably makes my Thai dish more “fusion,” I decided to use Black Bean Sauce in the Eggplant & Bok Choy dish instead of Yellow Bean Sauce that contains “starch” of undefined origin.

The most difficult part of making your own Black Bean Sauce is finding Salted Black Beans.  I get mine at a local Asian market in a bag that looks like this:

SaltedBlackBeans

Note that these are not the same as the black beans you would use for mexican food.  They are fermented in salt.  I store mine in the freezer.

  • 1/2 cup fermented/salted black beans
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 Tablespoon gluten-free Tamari
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Place fermented/salted black beans in a small saucepan and add water.  Leave to sit to rehydrate the beans (approx. 30 minutes, can be done earlier in the day).
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients.
  3. Heat over medium heat until bubbly and thickened.  Stir occasionally.

 

 

 

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