Another Food Memory

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My wife and I don’t do it nearly enough, even though we both enjoy it.

Get your minds out of the gutter… I’m talking about hosting dinner parties.

We’re pretty good, even if I do say so myself. But it is an unbelievable amount of work which is why they are infrequent events for us. Nevertheless, every so often we feel obliged to have good friends over to catch up, break bread, and laugh a lot.

When we do, my job is the menu and meal preparation. My wife is in charge of decor, conversation flow and cleaning up afterwards. Her responsibilities require a back-breaking effort. My job has admittedly gotten considerably easier thanks to our acquisition of an Instant Pot.  The entree for our last dinner party was both simple and delicious and because it was prepared in the Instant Pot, I did not feel removed from the pre-dinner discussions which has so often been the case in previous parties. Here’s what we served our guests and it shot straight to the top of our company meal options:

INSTANT POT LEMON GARLIC CHICKEN

  1. Take 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs. Season with salt, pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon each of garlic powder, smoked paprika and red pepper flakes.
  2. Press Saute button (normal) and add 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil.
  3. Place chicken in Instant Pot and brown on both sides (2-3 minutes per side). Work in batches in needed. Once browned, remove chicken from pot and set aside.
  4. Melt 3 Tablespoons butter in pot and add 1/2 diced onion and 4 garlic cloves (diced). Stir and add juice of 1 lemon to deglaze the pot. Continue to sauté for 1 minute.
  5. Add 3 teaspoons of Italian seasoning, zest from 1 lemon, and 1/3 cup of chicken broth.
  6. Place chicken back into pot, lock the lid and turn valve to SEALING.
  7. Turn off Saute function and select Pressure Cook (high). Set timer for 7 minutes.
  8. Once timer reaches “0”, let it natural release for 2 minutes then move valve to VENTING and release rest of pressure.
  9. Using tongs, remove chicken from pot. Stir in 2 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Switch back to SAUTE and let sauce bubble. Put chicken back in pot to coat with sauce.
  10. Garnish with fresh parsley or lemon slices.

The dish works exceptionally well when paired with rice and asparagus or mashed cauliflower.

And for dessert, coconut milk ice cream covered with raspberries, strawberries and blueberries which had been marinated overnight in limoncello, fresh mint and basil.

All in all, a delightful evening with good food, warm and friendly conversation, and more than one trip down memory lane with old friends.  We should do it more often (said the guy whose job isn’t to clean up after.)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Gobble, Gobble

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Another Thanksgiving is upon us and while we should all take time to reflect on those things we are or should be thankful for, there’s no escaping the fact that so much of this holiday will be focused on or around the dining room table.

I got off easy this year. My contribution to the family meal will be met with a simple cauliflower dish. I plan to make a cauliflower ‘mac n cheese’ concoction which has been a big hit in my household.  Here’s how to make it:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season the water with salt.
  • Spray an 8×8  baking dish with vegetable oil spray
  • Cook the florets of 1 head of cauliflower in the boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry.
  • Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and set aside.
  • Bring 1 cup heavy cream to a simmer in a small saucepan, and whisk in 2 oz. of cream cheese and 1 1/2 teaspoons of dijon mustard until smooth. Stir in 1 1/2 cups of  shredded sharp cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and garlic (to taste) and whisk just until the cheese melts, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, pour over the cauliflower, and stir to combine. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and bake until browned and bubbly hot, about 15 minutes.
  • Serve.

In years past, when I’ve been on turkey duty, I’ve relied on Giada’s citrus-stuffed recipe which results in a moist and flavorful bird.  It’s my go to recipe whenever asked to provide the main course. If only she would show how to carve the darn thing. I make the family leave the kitchen so they aren’t witness to the carnage when I attempt it. Here’s a link to that recipe.

Turkey with Herbes de Provence and Citrus

But my most vivid Thanksgiving memories are courtesy of my maternal grandmother whose house hosted most of our turkey dinners when I was growing up. The one thing I most looked forward to was the Thanksgiving giblet gravy which was made only for this particular meal. It’s a southern variation using the giblets of the turkey and hard boiled eggs and it was all I could do not to drink it right out of the gravy boat. 

It’s been a while since I have had it. I may have to rectify that next year.  Here’s that recipe.

  1. Remove liver from giblets and refrigerate.

  2. Place the remaining giblets into a saucepan and cover with 4 cups cold water; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the giblets for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. At this point add the liver to the saucepan and simmer for another 30 minutes.

  3. Place a mesh strainer or colander over a bowl. Drain the giblets and set the liquids aside to use in the gravy, if needed. Let the giblets cool. Remove the meat from the neck and chop with the rest of the meat

  4. Melt 4 TBs of butter in a heavy saucepan and stir in 4 TBs of flour. Cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the roux just barely begins to turn golden.

  5.  If you don’t have drippings from a roasted turkey or chicken, or if you only have a small amount, add the giblet broth or chicken or turkey stock to make 2 cups. Slowly stir in the drippings and/or broth into the roux. Add 1/2 cup of milk or half-and-half. Continue cooking and stirring until thickened.

  6. Taste and season the gravy with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

  7. Stir in two chopped hard-cooked eggs and chopped giblets and serve.

  8. The recipe makes about 3 cups of old-fashioned gravy. Enjoy!

     

To all my readers and clients, may you have a Happy Thanksgiving! We hope to see you after the weekend!

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Note; Home Video Studio of Mount Dora will be closed from Thursday Nov 22 through Sunday Nov 25. We will reopen at 9:30am on Monday, Nov 26.

Not Yet Forgotten Food Memories

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My wife and I have for years adhered to a grain-free/gluten-free diet. And while we have noticed an improvement in our overall health as a result, there are still times when I get nostalgic for those innocent college days when I could eat whatever I wanted based solely on two important factors: taste and cost.

Finding delicacies on a limited budget was never easy but I was nothing but resourceful in those days and, in time, able to discover two places close to campus that became culinary staples for me.

My favorite go-to spot in those days was Coney Island’s in New Castle PA. In the 70s it was an unassuming, small, hole-in-the-wall place run by a Greek family, but they made the most incredible chili dogs that appealed to starving and oftentimes hungover college students. I haven’t been there in over 40 years but I can still taste those dogs (which, if you think about it, probably isn’t such a good thing.)

Halfway between the campus and Coney’s, sat a small Italian restaurant that on certain days would advertise their sausage subs coated with marinara and mozzarella. Oh my, were they good. And on those special discount days, affordable. When paired with a side of deep-fried, batter-dipped mushrooms… it was ambrosia to our still developing taste buds.

Those two finds supplied the bulk of my “nutritional” supplements for the four years of academic study. And it is with a tinge of wistfulness that I look back on those carefree years. Now please pass the broccoli as I wipe away a tear.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Real Men Make Quiche

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For dinner last night I made a quiche.  Real men do more than just eat quiche you know… we also know how to make them.  But this was no ordinary quiche. It was a spinach and feta cheese quiche with a sweet potato crust… And just to make sure I didn’t lose my man card in the process, I added bacon to the recipe. Because as everyone knows… everything is more manly when you add bacon. (I do have to say that it was an organically produced bacon with no nitrates or artificial additives…but nonetheless manly.)

The recipe, which I will copy below, was born of a decision my wife and I made a few years ago. I will share it with you now but if you’re happy with the way you are currently eating and don’t want to change, I suggest you read no further. Sometimes, to be completely honest, I wish I had been given that option.

Years ago, we were encouraged to read the book Wheat Belly by William Davis. That inspired us towards further investigation and we were once again led to Grain Brain  by David Purlmutter with Kristin Loberg.

But I can spare you these reads if you like. The bottom line is… wheat, as we know it, is bad. I mean, really bad in a GMO sense. So my wife and I avoid it. We don’t have gluten allergies but we try to stay gluten free. And we really do feel better as a result. We stay away from breads, wheats, and grains of all kinds. We eat protein (mostly fish and chicken) and fresh vegetables – mainly green. And on those rare occasions when we are tempted to cheat, the repercussions come swift and are digestively unpleasant.

My wife and I have found that it is possible to eat and eat well while avoiding gluten. It just takes a little effort. And that is why I am able to make make quiche out of sweet potatoes. Here’s the recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Thinly slice a sweet potato to make rounds.
Coat sweet potato slices with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Layer sweet potato slices in overlapping manner in quiche pan.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
While baking, saute in pan: oil, 1/2 diced onion, a minced garlic clove, 5 oz of fresh spinach, and diced bacon (3 slices).
In bowl, add 1/2 cup of almond milk, salt, pepper, red pepper, 4 large eggs and 2 egg whites.
Mix.
Layer spinach mixture to sweet potato crust.
Pour egg mixture over spinach.
Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.
Bake for 35 minutes or until egg mixture is set.
Let stand for an additional 5 minutes before serving.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I Talk To The Trees

 

Sometimes, I feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield… I get no respect.  After I shopped for, prepared and cooked a scrumptious dinner – (Indian Curry with Chicken and Peas – here’s the recipe), we sat around the dinner table to enjoy good food and pleasant conversation.

We talked about our day which, for all of us, seemed to be very busy.  My wife had a full day planned and didn’t get to any of it as chore after chore  prevented her from carrying out her schedule.

I brought my laptop home to catch up on some video editing in between handling some finances and repairing a curtain rod that needed fixing. I worked all day long.

I then turned to my 90 year old mother-in-law who had thus far been silent and said, “What about you Laura? What do you have to complain about?”

“I don’t complain,” she replied, “Nobody listens to me anyway.”

I jokingly broke into song. #I talk to the trees but they don’t listen to me. I talk to the stars but they never hear me. The breeze hasn’t time…#  I stopped as I saw both my wife and mother-in-law staring at me with confused expressions.

“What?” I said, “That’s from Paint Your Wagon. It’s a famous song. Clint Eastwood sang it in the movie.”

Without missing a beat, my mother-in-law turned to my wife and deadpanned, “I hope he sang it better than that.”

No respect.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Hi Ho, Oh No, It’s Off To School I Go.

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We have five senses. And a memory can be attached to any or all of them. Today, I was reminded of a memory through an auditory trigger which led to an olfactory memory.

An old high school buddy who I read online today mentioned a local radio station which prompted me to recall the local AM station my family listened to in the morning every…single…day…for…fifteen…years. It did have the best contact information to report on school closings due to stormy weather which is why my parents tuned into it. But it also had some very odd practices which it never wavered from. One of them was the practice of playing, at 6:30am, a military march to get their listeners awake and active and ready to face the day. Let me say, that when you’re a school-aged kid, you don’t much appreciate that style of music jarring you from your deep sleep.

And I was hit with a double whammy, because my father, as a depression era kid, refused to waste food. If the previous night’s meal was not entirely consumed, it became his breakfast the next day.  Here’s what he did. He chopped up an onion. He chopped up a green pepper. He took the leftovers of last night’s meal. And he threw them all into a skillet. It could have been lasagna, it could have been flank steak. He just fried it all up. The smell of fried green pepper and onion quickly infused the house and it…along with the oom…pah…pah beat of the morning march.. drove me straight out of the house. I could not get to school fast enough.

To think of it, I never did stick around long enough to see if my dad ever ate his concoctions. Perhaps it was all a ruse to get us kids to wake up and go to school. But, knowing him as well I did, I wasn’t about to bet against it. It worked. We survived and I got an education. And as much as I am loathe to admit it, I even developed a kind of fondness for military marches.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

What’s For Dinner…Again?

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I hit a home run with dinner tonight.  I made an Instant Pot recipe that was, if I happen to say so myself, delicious.  Here’s the recipe (https://lifemadesweeter.com/instant-pot-lemon-garlic-chicken/)

I received accolades and rave reviews from my dinner companions and had to chuckle to myself because I remember the road I travelled to get here.  I’ve even blogged a little about it in the past. But here’s a specific that came to mind as I accepted the culinary compliments.

When I was in college and on a tight budget, I had to figure out a way to feed myself with limited funds. My solution was to invent a meal that I could stretch to last me an entire week.  To my deepest embarrassment, here’s what I made.  Mind you, this recipe was entirely my doing. And I ate it more times that I can count.

Take a pound of ground beef (or ground chuck, whichever is cheaper) , brown it in a skillet with salt, pepper and a diced onion. Set aside.

Make a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Add the ground chuck mixture to it.

Open a can of Campbell Cream of Mushroom soup. Do not add water.  Just dump the contents into the pot.

By now the concoction will have begun to take on the consistency of spackle. Add a can of corn.  Just because. All balanced meals have vegetables, right?

If you have followed the directions, the mixture will be nearly impossible to stir. I’ve broken many a wooden spoon trying to.  Here’s the secret. Pour a cup or three of red wine into the mess. That will loosen things up so you can stir and serve.  If wine is not available, a can of beer works just as well.

Trust me, you can improvise on this recipe nine ways till Sunday – nothing is going to “ruin” it.  And believe me, it did the job.  I made this on a Monday and by Friday, I was still eating it. Spreading the cost over the span of a week, I figured I was eating on about 70 cents a day. Got me through my senior year in college.  Haven’t dared make it since. I’m afraid to subject my colon to it in my advanced years.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Feeling A Little Blue, Berry?

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I love Mount Dora. Not only is it where I live and work, there is always something fun going on. This weekend, it is the 4th annual Blueberry Festival! Woo Hoo!  I know, I was skeptical at first myself. But this little “festival that could” has burst all expectations throughout the last four years as it has grown exponentially in its popularity.

You’d be surprised at how many products or events can be developed that feature this delicious little berry.  Or maybe you wouldn’t. I was.

I remember picking blueberries with my granddaughters once on one of those “how can we entertain the kids for an hour” moments. It was fun watching their excitement as they filled their buckets. You can have that same experience at the festival as a blueberry picking excursion has been announced at a local farm using the Mount Dora Fun Bus for transportation to and fro.

Within the festival itself, you’ll find booth after booth filled with examples of what you can do with the blueberries after you have picked them. Blueberry Pie, Blueberry Jam, Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry Craft Beer, Blueberry Wine, Blueberry scented soap, and the list goes on.

My problem is that I was born in the 50s and grew up in the 60s and 70s. There is only one blueberry reference that I will ever remember. And it is associated with one of the most obnoxious movie characters of all time.

 

The Blueberry Festival continues through today, April 29th. I urge you to stop by with the family. And take pictures or videos because… #MemoriesMatter.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Duck, Duck, Goose

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Did you see that story about the goose who went Rambo on that high school golfer who got too close to her nest?  No joke. There is a reason they are called fowl (foul).

Now, I don’t have any memories involving a goose of the avian type. However, I am mortal enemies with one of their close relatives. Here is my duck story.

Early on in my marriage, my wife did most of the cooking but as we had two small boys, I thought it necessary every so often to grill some meat. Arrrrgh. (my best Tim Allen caveman impression.) So I went and bought a mini grill – a Smoky Joe – table top edition. Having no outdoor table, I set it up on our concrete landing pad in the back yard overseeing a lovely lake view. The grill stood no higher than my calves.

I bought some beautiful sirloins, seasoned them, lit the charcoal, waited for the flames to die down, and then put the meat on the grill fully expecting a wonderfully manly meal. I was so much in the testosterone zone that I decided to go inside and crack a beer to toast our temporary departure from salad and tofu.

When I came back to the grill, and I was gone for only a moment, I saw a duck circling my grill. I froze in my tracks. He looked at me. I warned him, “Oh no you don’t!”

I swear… he smiled. And then he did a snatch and run. He plucked a steak off the grill and took a duck line straight toward the lake.

I grabbed my spatula and gave chase, dropping my beer. As I began to gain on him, he must have recognized the futility of his position. He dropped the steak in the grass and sped up toward the lake.

I picked the steak up, brushed off the dirt and duck saliva and put it back on the grill. I told my family the story and we all had a good laugh. I assured them that I served myself the duck steak but in all honesty, I kind of forgot where it was on the grill when it came time for dinner.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotape, audio recordings, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

I Wanted A Hot Dog, Not A Math Problem

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One of the great imponderables of life has always been: How come hot dogs come in packs of ten and hot dog buns come in packs of eight? The only way to come out even is if you decide to buy 40 of each (4 packs of dogs and 5 packs of buns.) Unless you have a huge family to feed, how much sense does that make?

While there have been logical explanations provided by both meat packers and bread makers defending their respective packaging decisions, it really isn’t what I sat down to write about. You see, the recording industry has its own version of this dilemma.

A CD is designed to hold 74 minutes of audio recording. There’s a bit of an old wives’ tale stating that engineers developing the technology wanted to ensure the entire performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony would fit onto a single CD. I’m not sure if that is entirely true but it is an interesting folk tale. Regardless, the 74 minute length didn’t cause many problems at first when transferring vinyl records or early audio cassettes to a CD format as both analog types were typically under 60 minutes of playing time beginning to end.

But as audio tape manufacturers continued to develop their products, audio cassette lengths increased and 90 minute tapes became commonplace (45 minutes of recordable tape per side.) And try as I might, I have never quite figured out how to squeeze 90 minutes of recording onto a 74 minute disc.

So, when faced with clients who have 90 minute tapes they want digitalized, I have to inform them that what they will receive (and what they will have to pay for) is a two disc set as the full recording is too large to fit on a single CD.

And in case you were wondering, if you wanted to come out even… bringing in enough 90 minutes tapes to fill each and every CD to their fullest 74 minute capacity,  the number of tapes you would need to bring in is … 37  tapes. That will exactly fit onto 45 CDs. And I would be more than happy to handle that job for you.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.