Monday, May 31, 2010

Music Monday

In doing some surfing through blogs I follow, I meandered over to a new post from Tami of Hearts Make Families. And there I found a fun and frivolous diversion: Music Monday, c/o Hair Bows & Guitar Picks.

Now, what does this have to do with cooking, baking, eating, or food in general??? Well, there is some potential for a connection -- a man with suspected Mafia connections, whom I knew of tangentially, always said that one should listen to opera when cooking Italian food; good thing for my kneecaps that I already considered that to be de rigueur! I have to listen to music when I'm in the kitchen; frankly, I listen to music while I'm at work, while I'm driving, virtually any chance I get. Silence gives me too much time in my own head, which can be a dangerous thing. And every life needs a soundtrack!

I tend to have -- shall we say? -- not exactly middle-of-the road tastes. Sure, I do some Top 40 and even some sappy songs ... who doesn't? (C'mon -- admit it!) But I love Sigur Ros, an Icelandic band. Despite being a self-proclaimed Secular Jew, I really enjoy traditional gospel music. The old Cole Porter, Gershwin, Irving Berlin, etc., classics are among my favorite songs ever. And then French chansons, ethereal melodies, Latin dance music, Punk, New Wave, and especially cheesy 70s/80s songs ("The Loco-Motion," "Vienna Calling," "Love is Like Oxygen," "Disco Duck" ...) may strike my fancy at any time.

My voicemail used to have a greeting featuring a portion of Laurie Anderson's "O, Superman," until I got frustrated with all the complaints because people thought they had a bad connection because of the electronic "breathing" in the background. The line was perfect: "Hi! I'm not home right now. But if you'll just leave a message at the sound of the tone ...." Oh, well. Whaddya gonna do with the pedestrian lowest common denominator???

But, as per usual, I digress. Today is Music Monday, and so I am selecting a video du jour. Jeremy and his buddy Andrew are practicing for a weekend gig -- Jeremy's graduation party!!! I'm baking and cooking like a madwoman, since I'm offering a dessert buffet and everything but the fruit tray (since I have no orchards in my backyard) will be homemade. If you watch this video, you'll feel as though you're hanging out with me in the kitchen as the guys play their Nirvana, Pixies, Dubliners and other cover songs (plus a few of Jeremy's own tunes) in the basement. Turn up the volume -- REALLY LOUD. Otherwise, you won't be able to fully share in the experience of having the band play at my house ....




Friday, May 28, 2010

I Won, I Won, I Won, I Won!!!

Just a quickie post to offer MANY, MUCHO, and MEGA thanks to everyone who voted for me in the 7th Mediterranean Cooking Event, which featured Algerian-inspired recipes. I WON!!! I had 32 votes vs. 17 for the 2nd place finisher ... you like me, you really like me!

So now I wait anxiously for my prize -- a North African cookbook which will fit happily with the several Moroccan cookbooks I already own (but really, one can never have too many, can one???).

Check out my page of contest wins to see this one featured right at the tippy-top of the list. It's a small win ... alas, no million dollars from Pillsbury to pay off my credit cards and car repair loan. But -- as my fellow cooking contesters and I are fond of saying -- "a win is a win." The competition was tough, with some gorgeous and amazing dishes! Rising to the cream of this crop was quite an accomplishment.

I am a proud and happy chickie on a sunny Friday evening ... :)


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Très Treyf Salad

As I type, it's -- shall we say? -- summery here in A2 (Ann Arbor, for those who don't live in the mitten-shaped state). So even though I'm actually inclined to cook today after receiving a very lovely and ego-boosting compliment from an acquaintance at work, it's just too hot to do so. Yeah, it's in the 80s -- it's not like it's Saharan or anything. But it's a big jump from the rainy chill we had only recently, and thus we're all still in the adjustment period. Either that, or I've hit menopause ....

The very kind woman who stopped by our office today was waiting to meet with one of my co-workers, and took a moment as I walked by to say to me: "You know, I really enjoy seeing your recipes in the paper. (FYI: AnnArbor.com -- see the column to your left to find the most recent articles I've written for them -- publishes a hard copy on Thursdays and Sundays.) You have such spirit! It's so nice to find out about people's interests that you didn't know about." I'm blushing ... it was so unexpected, and so charming, and so flattering ... :)

After I'd promised to send her a recipe for lemon curd, so she can use it to serve family members coming to visit this weekend (as a topping for pancakes ... sigh), I actually felt inspired to go into the kitchen. But, BLEAH!!! It's too hot out! But I didn't want to just make tuna salad or something equally uninspired for dinner simply because it's too wretched out to grill, and I have no desire to heat up the oven and counter the turned-on-too-early-in-the-season-but-whaddya-gonna-do? air conditioning.

And then I had a vision of brilliance. I often make a BLT pasta salad, but I didn't have any of the nitrite-free bacon that I eat because sodium nitrite makes me feel as though my skull is being crushed under a dump truck. But then I remembered that I had leftover ham in the freezer, and I had a variety of cheeses to choose from ... Ham 'n' Cheese Pasta Salad was born!

Now, of course, someone who considers herself to have the soul of a bubbe ([BUH-bee] = grandmother) probably shouldn't be eating ham ... or combining ham and cheese, especially. Not only is the lowly pig not considered to be edible according to the dietary laws, otherwise known as Kashrut [KAHSH-root], otherwise known as "keeping kosher;" but "Thou shalt not boil a kid in its mother's milk" according to Exodus 23:19, which has been interpreted to mean "don't mix meat and dairy" at the same meal. But, of course, my love of bacon and cheeseburgers and Beef Stroganoff and buttermilk-soaked fried chicken and such is partly why I'm a Secular Jew instead of a religious one. I thrive on foods that are treyf [TRAYF] = non-kosher. And, as the title of this post asserts, a Ham 'n' Cheese Pasta Salad is très treyf.

But oh, man, was it good! Whole wheat pasta shells, chopped ham, shredded Parmesan, some peas and carrots and a little salt and pepper. For myself, rather than for Jeremy, I also added grape tomatoes and shredded spinach and red onion, finishing it off with a Dijon-Balsamic vinaigrette. And I made enough that there will be leftovers for tomorrow ... to paraphrase Bob Vila, "Cook Once, Eat Twice." There's not really a recipe for this -- just add what you want in the quantities that you have on hand ... isn't that the beauty of a salad anyway, as evidenced in the Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays round-up???

Be sure to also look for this recipe at Harrigan Howdy, which offers a weekly Recipe Share to which I was just invited!









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The Carrot or the Stick ...?

I seem to be getting my Cooking Karma back -- in the past few days I've made cheese omelettes with hash browns, sauteed salmon with asparagus and grape tomatoes (which started out as fillets with vegetables on the side ... until the fish stuck to the pan, at which time it became a kinda hash when I threw everything in together), and last night I grilled steaks.

Yeah, it doesn't sound like much for someone who loves to bake bread and who pits her own tart cherries every July rather than buying them in a jar. But given that, once again, I am abruptly boyfriend-less (third summer in a row!) just when I had grand plans for outdoor concerts and eating ice cream and going for walks in the sunshine, I think I'm doing pretty well.

And so, in honor of the nice dinner on a gorgeous sunny day, I determined to make a more glamorous side dish than the simple sliced fruits I've been serving as I eased my way back into the kitchen. It's also perfect for the Side Dish Showdown, which I entered last month with a recipe for Indian Spiced Potatoes. There are so many fabulous recipes from so many amazing cooks! I am proud to be even a small part of it.

It only took about 5 minutes to cook the shredded carrots in butter and orange juice, so this is a quick and easy -- but delicious and festive -- dish to accompany anything from beef to lamb to chicken to pork to even (gag! retch! gasp!) tofu.

So, whether you need a nice salad to tote along in a pic-a-nic basket, or something fast to serve after a long day at work, or an easy side dish to make on a hot summer day, or just a soul brightener with beautiful color and festive flavor, this will solve all your problems. And isn't it infinitely more interesting than just some carrot sticks looking forlorn on the plate??? (I do like the Plain Jane version very much, but they're definitely not singing a scintillating Siren song.) A hint of cumin or curry probably wouldn't hurt these, either ... :)

Orange-Glazed Shredded Carrots

2 tablespoons butter
6 ounces shredded carrots
juice of 1 orange
pinch of kosher salt

In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the carrots until they start to soften, then add the orange juice. Cook, stirring whenever you feel like it, for about 5 minutes 'til most of the liquid has been absorbed. If only everything else in life could be this easy!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, How Does Your Garden Grow?

First of all, I've gotta defend myself -- I'm probably the least contrary person I know! I'm pretty adaptable and agreeable, and like to think that I'm haymish (Yiddish = "warm and welcoming").

I'm also not a horticulturist or landscaper by any means, but I always have a backyard garden. Last year's didn't do very well, for inexplicable and anomalous reasons, but I'm hoping for better results this time. I'll also have a larger plot, thanks to the beneficence of Project Grow and its community gardens, so that will double my chances of success!

I always grow tomatoes and basil -- unlike zucchini, you can never have too many or too much of either one of these. If I find I have an abundance of the former, I roast them and puree them into sauce to put in the freezer. It also takes a fair amount of the latter to make pesto, which also finds its way to cold storage for the winter. And that's not even counting the multiple uses for each entity during the summer itself -- salads, basil vinaigrette, pizza, pasta, sandwiches, you name it!

This year, Jeremy and I picked out two varieties of tomato: sweet cherry tomatoes


and beefsteak tomatoes whose tags promise bounty weighing 2 pounds each, which will be tempting to the woodchucks who like to visit my backyard every year and steal from me even though the tomatoes are too big for them to carry and they end up dropping them after ruining them .... take a deep breath, now! Stop carrying that grudge!

(Yes, by the way, I'm aware that my babies look the same at this point, with no distinguishing red fruits to make them appear like fraternal rather than identical octuplets ....)

Jeremy also asked if we could grow peas, which -- along with corn and carrots -- are about the only vegetable he actually enjoys. He's a good eater, and even when he was little he proudly pronounced that spinach souffle was his favorite food. But those three are the only ones I can guarantee he'll eat. So I said, "Sure!" even before he pointed out how much I like to shuck peas. We both win -- good wholesome food, and some pre-cooking entertainment for lil' ol' me.

And I do love to shuck peas, although most people would find it a waste of time and brain function. I find it very relaxing, just like pitting cherries in July when the tart varieties that Michigan specializes in growing will appear. Turn on some tunes, sit in the sun and pretend I don't live my life under fluorescent lights in an office, and peel those pods off those peas! I'd show you their picture, but they look fairly pitiful right now. Let's let them buff up a bit, shall we? But no steroids -- I only grow organic gardens.

So, that's it for the tour. You've met the cast, now let's see how this production plays out ....

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Look At Me, I'm Sandra Lee!

I'm not normally a fan of the "dump 'n' stir" philosophy of cooking so thoroughly relished by Sandra Lee, the eternally perky woman who has built a Semi-Homemade empire through such gag-inducing notions as making meatloaf with dry onion soup mix and Cream of Mushroom soup. (I saw it myself, or else I'd have thought I'd gone through a time machine back into the 60s!) Processed ingredients forming some semblance of a meal, and requiring no ability beyond running a can opener ... not for moi. I don't necessarily cook to Cordon Bleu standards of complication, but still!

But after a stressful month or so leading up to last weekend's hospitalization of a loved one, compounded by a wretched and broken-hearted week in which I abruptly find that I am no longer part of an "us" for reasons beyond my comprehension and control, I'm just not in the mood to cook despite it normally being a great passion. Jeremy, however, needs to eat ... as do I, although it's difficult to choke anything down. I'm trying to push nutrition into myself, focusing on fruits and vegetables and protein.

And so this morning -- a dreary, rainy day to suit my misery -- I decided to pull out my Mama Bear crockpot (as opposed to the Papa Bear and Baby Bear versions). Let the slow cooker do the work while I wallow! But what do I have to put into it, other than a couple of defrosted ground beef patties, since I haven't been to the grocery store in a few days?

A can of diced tomatoes with chili peppers and onions. A can of black beans. A packet of taco seasoning. A jar of taco sauce. Oh, no -- I must resign myself to the "dump 'n' stir" ... a pot of chili is clearly what the fates have planned.

So I browned the beef and sauteed the onions, just so I can claim that I actually did some cooking. I rinsed the beans and plopped them in along with the tomatoes and sauce and seasoning. I added a dash of Tabasco and a little bit of non-alcoholic beer discovered recently when I cleaned out my pantry. (I had Pink Eye and was a walking contagion -- I had to do something while I was on doctor-ordered banishment from work and public interaction!) And then I covered the crockpot and set it to do the cooking while I did some therapy shopping. (New-to-me jeans, t-shirt, skirt, pink beaded tank sweater, glass dish, and Moroccan tile-inspired plates from a thrift shop, plus gorgeous dangly floral earrings bought with the remainder of a gift card from a fabulous friend ... inquiring minds need to know these things!)

And ya know what? The chili was pretty good, if I may say so myself! I don't know that this will become my new m.o., but dumping stuff in and stirring it around to make an easy meal worked out well today. A few nacho chips crumbled on top, a dollop of sour cream, and dinner was served ....


Crockpot Chili

1/2 pound ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
1 cup corn
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with chilies and onions
1 packet taco seasoning
6 ounces beer
1/2 cup salsa
1/2 cup taco sauce
generous splashes of Tabasco sauce
salt, pepper

Brown the ground beef and the onions. Then dump them into a crockpot along with everything else on the list, stir the ingredients, cook on "low" all day.

P.S.: For those of you who aren't old enough to know this, the title of this post is a play on "Look At Me, I'm Sandra Dee" from "Grease." Yes, I'm showing my age ... being old is better than the alternative!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Kugel for Comfort

Shavuot [shah-voo-WOTE] is one of my very favorite Jewish holidays, and it begins at sundown tonight. It commemorates bestowing the Torah upon the Israelites and the beginning of their covenant with God; and the holiday is welcomed with a variety of learning and study sessions, which can only be enticing to someone whose ex-husband once referred to her as an "intellectual snob." (Not true!!! Though I do admit to difficulty in suffering fools ....)

To a food-obsessed chickie like moi, though, Shavuot is really about the cheesecake ... and the blintzes ... and the ice cream. Because it's traditional to eat dairy foods at Shavuot, so you get a free pass to eat all the creamy goodies you can stand. This morning I made a sweet kugel [KOO-guhl] that not only made the house smell wonderful to greet the day, but which will then be ready for me to simply re-heat when I get home later tonight after taking our anonymous patient home from the hospital. Kugel is comfort food supreme, and will be much appreciated after a long day.

I debated whether to go for the gusto and make blintzes, which just struck me as too much work after an exhausting several weeks having led up to the weekend's hospitalization. Make crepes, fill crepes, fold crepes, fry crepes ... and do I really want to clean up the mess??? So then I considered my traditional blintz casserole, which is not what everyone else's blintz casserole seems to be. Others take frozen blintzes and place them into a baking dish, then pour a creamy batter over them before baking and slicing. Mine involves pouring some crepe batter into the bottom of a dish, baking it just until set, then topping that with the cheese filling and pouring the rest of the crepe batter over the top; once it bakes, it is cut into squares. But I didn't feel like making that, either ... no reason, just 'cause. Feeling fickle today, I guess, since I usually love anything blintz-like.

But a craving struck, and it struck like a flash of both lightning and brilliance: kugel, a noodle casserole without which a Jewish feast is not complete. I'm not too big a fan of the savory kugels; and the Kugel Yerushalayim -- with caramelized sugar and black pepper, which Israelis adore -- is fairly dry and crunchy and disgusting, in my opinion. But give me ricotta cheese, sour cream, a hint of almond and lemon, and a generous amount of cinnamon .. oh, I am a happy, happy girl!

And since this dish involves noodles, it met the one very easy and welcoming condition for joining the Presto Pasta Nights recipe round-up I just signed up for yesterday. Susan, of The Well-Seasoned Cook, is our charming hostess this week; but we must not forget the fabulous woman who began it all -- Ruth, of Once Upon a Feast. Thanks for letting me crash the party -- what a fabulous way to collect recipes and make new friends!!!

Sweet Kugel

Kugel:
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
grated zest from 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 12-ounce package whole wheat noodles, cooked according to package directions

Topping:
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Nilla wafers, crushed fine
1 cup Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls cereal, crushed fine

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine ricotta, sour cream, almond extract, lemon zest, salt, sugar and eggs in a large bowl.

Stir in noodles, then place into a greased 9"x13" baking dish.

Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over kugel.


Bake for 40-45 minutes until topping is golden, some of the noodles are a bit crisp, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let set for 15 minutes before serving. It's best served warm, and reheats beautifully.

Hag Sameach!!! [HAHG sah-MAY-yahk] = "Happy Holiday!" in Hebrew



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Monday, May 17, 2010

Don't Get Hungry at the Hospital on a Sunday!!!

Well, as they say, all good things must come to an end; and the fairy tale involving edible (and even appetizing!) food at the unnamed local hospital I was parked at for the weekend while taking care of a loved one has, unfortunately, followed that adage. Whereas Saturday's turkey lunch and spaghetti dinner received glowing compliments -- repeated yesterday during a survey by the food service staff -- the meal which showed up a short while after the rave reviews were offered was ... well ... truly disgusting.

I can personally vouch for that -- I'm the brave soul who tasted it when our anonymous-by-choice patient refused to, and who tried to figure out a way to bring it home to Fuzzybutt before agreeing with the patient that the dog's digestive tract would likely not benefit from this dish. It wasn't fit for human consumption, obviously, but I'm not sure it was fit for pooches either. And while I was courageous enough to at least put some into my mouth, I'm not courageous enough to feed this to the dog and then sit around wondering whether her intestines might explode. We all know who'd be cleaning up the mess, after all.

The meal in question is Beef Chop Suey. If you are ever admitted to this hospital or are visiting someone there, do not order it. I repeat -- keep away from the chop suey!!! Now, in all honesty, it would not have been on my list of options as I read over the menu; it's not one of my favorites to begin with, and the prospect of institutional Chinese-ish food just does not sound enticing to me. But our patient has fond memories of eating it at an aunt's house many moons ago -- apparently she had a knack for making La Choy appetizing, which is a remarkable feat unto itself! -- and was apparently having a nostalgic moment when it was circled on the request sheet.

But then it arrived. And it was cold -- refrigerated, not just lukewarm from having made too long a schlep from the stove to the elevator to the room. And it was mostly gravy, with a chunk or two of "beef." (I can't promise that the stuff floating in the sauce had ever seen, let alone once been, a cow.) And it smelled bad. And, as you can see, it didn't look particularly mouthwatering either. Our patient refused it outright, whereas I -- queen of not wasting food, whether incorporating leftovers into new meals or feeding my pooch's paunch with things no one else wants -- industriously tried to find a container to bring the slop home in. But our patient's wisdom reigned supreme, and I relinquished my quest for the greater good of Fuzzybutt's well-being, as well as that of my carpeting.

The very kind food server offered to warm up the mess, but that really didn't do it any good even once she'd performed the mitzvah. So she let the patient choose an alternative, a deli sandwich, which was excellent except for having been delivered with no condiments of any kind. I offered to go to the cafeteria in search of embellishments like mayonnaise and mustard, but this was graciously refused, I think, simply for the sake of not wanting to wait any more to stave off hunger.

I had brought my lunch -- a salad of white beans and tuna with tomatoes and onion and carrots, all dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette to which I'd added a touch of my beloved Mustard From Hell (available at Copernicus Polish Market on Main Street in Ann Arbor) -- in order to save some money and also because our patient was supposed to go home yesterday; a simple lunch requiring no heating or refrigeration seemed ideal, with dinner to be determined depending upon our patient's cravings. However, some lab results are still pending; thus discharge has been delayed until today, we hope.

And so, the rice crackers that we'd brought along for snack purposes clearly needed to be supplemented by late afternoon. I'm a good eater -- I needed dinner, which was a difficult prospect on a Sunday. The bagel shop was closed, though I wasn't particularly inclined to eat either refined flour or yeast, two things I make some effort to avoid if possible. I asked about the kosher items, which I know are prepared by Chef Cari in Oak Park; I've eaten her food before at special events she's been hired to cater, and was intrigued by the possibilities of what she might offer for pre-packaged hospital meals. But those were all bought out, despite some very helpful service from a cashier who tried to find them for me but could only apologize for their lack of availability. Good thing I don't actually keep kosher, huh???

And thus, let me show you what my non-vending machine options were, sad as the array might be for you to observe:

Stale doughnuts ....


A salad bar with dried-out pasta and some sad looking fruit ....


A pizza sitting under a heat lamp ... but it's made with a whole wheat crust! (I do have to admit that I gave this one some consideration, in order to get some protein from the cheese.)


Chicken tenders, chicken fingers, some star-shaped hash browns (I think), and some fish strips maintaining their tans under a lamp ....


And two different varieties of bean soup ....


Sigh ....

So after walking by the grill a few times, hoping not to have to resign myself to a burger, I finally resigned myself to having a burger. This picture makes it look pretty good, I must admit; and, in all honesty, it wasn't wretched. But it hardly compares to the burgers enjoyed last week, which I wrote about with such enthusiasm!

Of course, I might not be quite so disparaging had I not witnessed for myself that the beef patties had all been pre-formed -- not to mention pre-cooked! -- then placed in rows in a baking sheet, ready to be plucked up and plopped onto the grill when ordered so that they could be re-heated and further dried out. (This photo op was just begging for me, but the grillmeister was standing right there at the counter and I couldn't very well explain my intentions!) And while I could have ordered it without the bun, at that point I was just strolling down the path of least resistance and indulged in the soft, squishy refined flour bun to complete my Sunday evening dining experience. And I ate the entire thing -- fries, pickle, burger and all ... urp! (Excuse me ....)

Our patient's Chicken Caesar Salad arrived cold, though not quite as cold as the Chop Suey had. The greens looked good, there was a generous amount of chicken and cheese, and the accompanying carrot cake looked and smelled very good. But this was a meager meal, even for someone who generally eats small meals and whose appetite has been compromised while not feeling well.

So fortunately our patient was permitted to meander off the ward once yet another i.v. drip was finished, and we were able to stroll on downstairs to watch the entertaining ice cream vending machine do its amusing job of delivering chocolate-filled ice cream sandwiches. We took them down to the lobby, where there is an art exhibit that appears to be inspired by microbials -- huge, colorful paintings of shapes that appear other-worldly, which make for a very lively display. And considering that our patient has artistic tendencies, this was a perfect diversion after a weekend of tedium and misery ... :)

Here's hoping that there are no further forays into the mysterious workings of the hit-a-homer or miss-by-miles hospital food service!


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Room Service, But No Mints on the Pillows

I was asked yesterday, "Did you find crack in the parking structure???" since I was seemingly inappropriately tickled by some of my experiences at a local hospital as I offered support and diversion to a loved one. Giddy creature that I can sometimes be -- especially since there is significant improvement in the anonymous-by-choice patient's condition since Friday night's admit -- rather than bemoaning the loss of a planned trip and acting sullen with disappointment, I've been finding amusement where I can. It's the little things ....

For example, a very kind staff member stopped by before I left to offer bedtime snacks. Unfortunately he was out of chocolate pudding, but he had everything else from Lorna Doones to vanilla pudding to yogurt to granola bars. Our patient chose a Rice Krispies Treat, and then the very generous man asked lil' ol' moi whether *I* might like something as well ... how utterly charming! "Oh, that would be wonderful -- thank you so much!" I've been hearing the call of Fig Newtons for a week or so, and thus it seemed like divine intervention that they might be brought literally to my doorstep ... or, at least, to my chair in the hospital room.

I am also completely enthralled by the ice cream vending machine near the cafeteria, which offers the usual array of Strawberry Shortcakes and Fudge Bars and Creamsicles. But it also offers 4 kinds of ice cream sandwiches -- vanilla, chocolate, Neopolitan, and also one with strawberry-jam-swirled ice cream surrounded by vanilla-flavored cookies -- a veritable buffet! And it is a diversion that just begs to have kids witness its action:

1. Put in your money ($1.50 -- but it's a good-sized treat, longer and fatter than most ... and I was a captive audience).

2. Make your selection.

3. Watch through a window as the freezer door opens and a vacuum tube sucks up your treat and dumps it into the chute, much the way that the infamous claw machines work.





Far more entertaining than watching vital signs be taken or waiting for lab results, the ice cream machine is going to be the patient's field trip today, health and stamina permitting!

But the day wasn't all about sweets and treats. For lunch, "Room Service" brought our patient a tray filled with a slice of turkey with gravy, peas, wild rice, a roll, a cup of minestrone, and an apple; the person who'd occupied the bed the day before and filled out the meal request seems to have been fairly interested in substantial but nutritious food. And although hospital food has a -- shall we say? -- less-than-stellar reputation, this meal actually got a good review. The nurse, Tina, found this to be endlessly entertaining and kept giggling as the compliments were offered. I'm quite certain that she doesn't usually get to personally witness such an event ... and I'm equally certain that the event doesn't occur very often, either!

When other loved ones have been hospitalized, they've always made sure to order extra food to provide me with something to eat while I am entrenched in the room trying to be helpful (or at least distracting and/or comforting). But since our patient didn't get to place orders for lunch, I needed to meander through the labyrinth and find something to eat at the cafeteria. (Note that you don't need a gym membership if you spend any time at this hospital; the place is gargantuan!) It being the weekend -- when I guess there aren't any employees, patients or visitors in need of a full array of sustenance ... pffft! -- the options were fairly limited: pizza, sushi (which, as we can see in the banner, is not on my "nice" list), yogurt, bagels, an array of cake and pie slices. But then I found pre-packaged salads, and for a reasonable price, too: $4.29 for fattoush with chicken that could have fed two people.

The greens were in exceptionally good condition, and the other vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, onion, tomatoes) were plentiful. There were strips of toasted pita bread, and tender pieces of chicken breast. With the exception of the dressing, which was kinda lemony but lacking tartness or much flavor, the salad was very good. Considering that I found it at a hospital cafeteria, I am most impressed!

Our patient actually received a call from the dietician, who offered the opportunity to choose dinner rather than eating yet another meal that had been pre-selected by the room's predecessor. I don't remember what the other options were, but spaghetti and meat sauce -- which brightened the patient's face immensely in anticipation of the meal! -- was the winner. I neglected to capture its photogenic self, but it actually did look appetizing. Served with green beans and cole slaw, every bite was eaten and still more compliments were offered to the chef. If I hadn't heard the words myself, I'm not sure I would have believed it!

The prospect of an omelette with bacon is today's enticing breakfast option (after yesterday's Corn Flakes and banana bread, which had arrived before my camera and I did). Lunch is a deli sandwich, and I don't actually remember what the dinner option is. But your faithful reporter will be on task! Ya can't say I'm not thorough, after all -- when I promise to report on all of my food experiences, from cooking to baking to restaurants and now the hospital, I'm a woman of my word!


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