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The post in which we start repairing, rather than demolishing, the kitchen


Today is a very exciting day.


Today, we tore the last pieces of laminate from behind the sink and pulled out the nails that attached the last bits of that awful backsplash to the wall.

Then the new counters went in.  They’re a dark laminate and already the kitchen looks better.  On Friday the walls will be repaired and by Saturday the plumbing should be installed, with a new sink and new faucet.

Then we can start to tile the wall, to paint the other walls, and eventually, come spring, sand, prime and paint the cabinets, replacing the hardware and outfitting it with trim.

We’re on the upswing.  Huzzah!



Grilled Buffalo Chicken

I didn’t get a pretty picture (alas, it wasn’t pretty) but if you are a fan of buffalo chicken but would rather not fry everything for whatever reason, this is for you. I love buffalo chicken fingers, myself; I like the wings ok, but don’t care for all the skin and bones involved.

I used tabasco sauce in my recipe, as Whole Foods didn’t have Frank’s, which I understand is traditional.

So here you go:

1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast  (I had two huge pieces), dusted with:



chili powder

Grill until done–this took about 15 minutes.  Let them rest a few minutes and then cut into chunks.

Mix 3.5 T tabasco or other hot sauce with 3 T melted butter.  I think Mr. Pea added a little more paprika to this, as well.  Add your chopped chicken and toss.  Add about 1/3 or so cups of crumbled blue cheese.

We ate this chicken with corn on the cob and our make-it-yourself rice-a-roni.


My Winter Friends

See, I’m not afraid of winter. I embrace it in part by keeping reminders of it around, past the point when the other holiday stuff was put away.

The Snowman

Here’s the Snowman, in his window post, with snowflake.

Pretty snowflake candle.Snowflake candle

And the snowman quilt my mom made me a long while ago.

Quilt my mom made me

Trees and cheese

whole tree, but darkThis past weekend we picked out our tree and put it up in the living room.  It’s weird having moved twice in two years, as we’ve had to pick out new tree places in our new apartments.  I’m happy with this year’s tree.  It’s hard to tell in the photo, but it’s well-formed and in the living room–this means I get to see it all the time, which makes me happy.  At our last place in Boston, we often kept the tree in the dining room.  It was still pretty but I didn’t get to see it constantly, only when passing through.  So this works for me.

This time of year, I think a lot of people are looking for dinners that they can get on the table quickly so as to keep up with the rest of their lives.  We’re no exception–this week is finals week, so I’m very busy, and I’d rather be baking all day than making fancy dinners.  So last night Mr. Pea assembled a cheesy bean and rice casserole while I was at the annual school holiday party.  It starts with rice you’ve cooked earlier and comes together in a snap.

Original recipe from
cheesy rice and bean bakeYou’ll need:
1 cup of brown rice, dried, cooked per your directions (I use 1 c rice to 1.5-2 c water, about 40 minutes)
1 can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large onion, chopped
1 T canola oil
1 14.5 ounce can of tomatoes with green chilis, undrained
2 t chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 c grated cheddar

Once your rice is done, add beans and stir. In a skillet, cook onion in canola for 5-8 minutes, until tender. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil.

In a 2 quart baking dish, layer rice and beans, tomato mixture, and cheese three times–so a layer of each, then a layer of each, and finish with just a layer of rice and one of tomatoes. Cover and bake at 350* for half an hour; remove cover and top with remaining cheese. Bake another several minutes til melted. We ate this with dollops of sour cream and a drizzle of green salsa from Trader Joe’s.

Wheat Berry Salad

Wheat Berry Salad (also dim)

This here is a wheat berry salad.  A wheat berry is an entire wheat kernel, largely unprocessed.  It’s a true whole grain, full of fiber and nutrients.  I made something with them once–I can’t remember what–but saw this salad in last month’s Cooking Light and thought I’d try it with some modifications.  It’s not bad and the texture’s nice, but the dressing is a bit too tangy for my tastebuds.

You begin with 1 1/4 c of wheat berries.  I found mine in the bulk bin at whole foods.  These go into a pot of salted water to simmer for at least 45 minutes to an hour.  Then you drain and rinse them until cool.  Put in a bowl with 1 1/2 c packed lettuce/arugula, about 1/4 c chopped parsley, some chopped zucchini (maybe half a cup, small dice?), though the recipe originally called for cucumber.  Add a chopped tomato (a big one) and 3 oz crumbled goat cheese.  Toss.  Make your dressing:  zest of one lemon, about 3 T of juice (two would be enough), 2 T olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little sugar (half a teaspoon).  Toss with salad.  I think we had too much dressing, plus I didn’t dry the lettuce enough, which left us with a pool at the bottom of the bowl.  No matter–we ate it anyway.  Serves six.

Poor Man’s Pastas

the basics

I had every intention of writing this post yesterday but this week has been really crazy at work. The semester is reaching that screeching pitch where the kids are over-busy and turning into zombies, and I am over-busy both with them and with committee work. That’s a warning of sorts to potential future faculty: if you don’t like serving on committees, maybe you should rethink your career path! So far I enjoy it a lot, but it’s a lot of madness and chaos these days.

The other night Mr. Pea and I enjoyed a very simple pasta, one that is considered a traditional “poor man’s pasta” because of the paucity of ingredients. We got to talking and came to the conclusion that most poor man’s pastas are tasty enough to envy those made with expensive ingredients and are made extra-special by the short amount of time you can make them in. The one we made the other night was a breadcrumb-based dish; but aglio e olio–spaghetti tossed with olive oil that’s gently simmered with garlic and a little red pepper flakes, topped with pecorino or parmesan–is another great example. Even carbonara–pasta with eggs and a little bacon–is a poor-man’s pasta.

Pasta with Breadcrumbs
This is best made with fresh breadcrumbs that you’ve made yourself, blitzing a heel of bread or so in the food processor or blender, but we’ve also made it using unseasoned breadcrumbs from a can. Serves 2.

6 oz pasta, preferably a long cut like spaghetti or fettucine
3/4 c bread crumbs
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
salt and pepper to taste

Get your pasta going. With 5-10 minutes left, warm up the oil and butter together over medium-high heat and add garlic. Cook a minute, being careful not to let it brown. Add bread crumbs, toss to coat, and let it get toasty, 5-10 minutes. Toss pasta with crumbs, season with a little salt (we don’t use pepper, but you could), and voila. Delicious.

Sweet Potato and Sausage Hash

Sweet Potato and Sausage Hash

Some time ago I bought some of Stoney Brook Farms’ Italian turkey sausage for a tomato sauce. We used only a few, cooked them up, and were taken aback by the flavor–they seemed somewhere halfway between an Italian sausage (lots of fennel) and a breakfast sausage (lots of sage). We stuck the last four in some plastic wrap and popped them in the freezer, where they remained.

Last night I gave a couple of huge sweet potatoes a rough chop and stuck them in the microwave as a side for some pork chops. There was far too much potato for the two of us, though, and I put the rest in the fridge. Mr. Pea, however, had the genius idea of combining the turkey sausage with the potatoes for some kind of hash this morning, and were we ever glad we did.

We began with a big skillet in which we melted 1 1/2 T of butter. To that I added 2/3 of an onion, chopped, and got it started with a little salt. When they’d just started to soften, I squeezed the sausage out of their casings and broke up the sausage itself, stirring with the onions, over a medium heat. While this cooked down, Mr. Pea chopped the potatoes into 1/2″ dice and I added these to the pan. For 6 or 7 minutes we let them cook and tossed them around; then, after adding some salt and pepper, Mr. Pea gave them a rough mash just to break a few up, and pressed them into the pan to brown.

To top this off, we fried two eggs, and placed each one on top of a nice pile of hash. Oh, so yummy. We easily could have fed four people if we’d made some toast, but we had enough for about three people. Three hungry people. Give it a try!