the oddities of the calendar

Ash WednesdaySometimes the calendar falls in such a way that there are weird correspondences. Sometimes the secular and liturgical calendars intersect in such a way that those correspondences are strange indeed.

This is one of those years. Today is Valentine’s Day. It is also Ashbaseball Wednesday. This year Easter falls on April Fools Day. It is the sort of cosmic goof that Tom Robbins wrote about in Another Roadside Attraction. I never knew that the time between Ash Wednesday and Easter matched the time between Valentine’s Day and April Fool’s Day. There’s got to be some significance there, though I’m not sure what it is.

To add another layer, after reporting to training camp yesterday the Dodgers pitchers and catchers had their first workout today.

I’m not sure what it’s all about, Alfie, but maybe we can figure it out. Or maybe we don’t need to.

by jove, I think I’ve got it!

I have been sharing with you my attempts at simplified homemade pizza: weeknight pizza, if you will. It revolved around Trader Joe’s pizza dough and canned pizza sauce.

whole pizzaI think I finally have this figured out. Forget the Trader Joe’s pizza dough. Keep the canned pizza sauce. The Trader Joe’s pizza dough sticks to the pan unless I coat it with a thick layer of Crisco. Even then it’s difficult to work with.

In my latest iteration I made my own pizza dough using a recipe I’ve had for many years. It’s straightforward and not difficult. You just have to plan ahead. I baked the crust for five minutes before adding the toppings. I used half a can of pizza sauce. The real effort and time sink with pizza is when you try to make your own sauce.

It worked out really well. I was quite happy. I think I’ve got the formula down for simplified weeknight homemade pizza.

pizza slices

appreciating Wesla

We lost one of the finest interpreters of the Great American Songbook on Friday. Wesla Whitfield died at age 70. She announced her retirement from performing some months back as she was working to overcome an infection. More recently she was diagnosed with bladder cancer, and not long ago her husband and accompanist, Mike Greensill, let us know in an email that she had chosen to go on hospice care. She had been a paraplegic since 1977 when she was hit by a bullet. She was tired and she left on her own terms.

Terry and I were both big fans of Wesla. We knew her as a regular guest on the West Coast Live radio program. We have many of her CDs. We saw her in person multiple time. I believe the first time was at the Carriage House, part of the Villa Montalvo venue in Saratoga. We also saw her at the Mountain View Performing Arts Center.

The last time we saw her was at the Plush Room in San Francisco. It was located in the York Hotel (if I recall correctly) and we made it into a date weekend, staying at the hotel. When we got there we were surprised at the lack of eating choices in walking distance. We ended up ordering a pizza from a shop down the street and taking it up to our room. But it was good pizza and it got us ready for the show.

We loved the performance. After it was over Mike came out and mingled with the guests. He said to us, “We saw you smooching.” We were. They were romantic songs. We saw Wesla turn a wheelie in her wheelchair (or so it seemed to me) as she left the room.

She has now left the room for good, but I trust she is performing the Great American Songbook somewhere else without the need of a wheelchair.

Sacred Music Friday: We’ve Come This Far By Faith

I’ve shared this before, and more than once. It’s time to do so again, however. Mostly because I need it for myself. And besides, I love the 1970s look.

our new wine strategy

When we lived in Gilroy we had it easy when it came to wine. We had a BevMo in town which always had a good selection of wines. And we would order wine from our favorite winery, Navarro. They all sat properly chilled in the wine cooler which we included in our remodeled kitchen.

Wine RackHere in Hemet we have nothing like a BevMo, and financial constraints no longer allow us to order from Navarro. There is a BevMo about thirty minutes away, but we stopped going there when I found my scotch was cheaper at Smart & Final here in town and they settled a class action lawsuit in which they were found to be manipulating prices in their “buy one, get the second for one cent” sales.

Then Terry discovered the new Total Wines, in the same city as BevMo a half hour south of us. She was amazed at the selection. We were both wearying of the limited rotation we had with our supermarket and Smart & Final, and we agreed that we could visit Total Wines every couple of weeks to stock up. We found a wine rack on Amazon which Terry, with the proper amount of snarling and swearing, put together.

It’s good new plan and I think it will work.

on wraps

wrapI had a thought recently. I like making sandwiches with deli meat from Sprouts and lettuce from the container garden, but sometimes the bread is too much. And really, I don’t need those refined carbohydrates. I thought that Sprouts would have spinach wraps and they did. I bought a package and made a wrap with deli chicken, turkey, and beef, along with cheese and garden lettuce. I put aioli and chipotle mayo on the wrap.

It was tasty and healthy without the excess bread.

Great Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition

Great MindsGreat Minds of the Eastern Intellectual Tradition
Professor Grant Hardy, Ph.D.
The Great Courses
Audio download $34.95 when on sale
If the course is not on sale, check back– the sale price will come around again

This is an expansive course.

The series contains thirty-six lectures. Geographically it encompasses India, China, Japan, Korea, and even Persia. Professor Hardy looks at thought as early as the Vedas from somewhere around the 4th or 6th centuries A.D., and goes all the way up to Gandhi and Mao in the twentieth century, and then on to current customs and culture.

The fact that he covers a lot of material is made evident early in the course where the two earliest collections of sacred writing in India, the Vedas and the Upanishads, must share a single lecture. Hardy discusses people and works you might be familiar with and individuals and writings you’ve never heard of.

There is a lot of material here. I think this course is deserving of a second go round.

hash brown crusted cod

Terry and I saw this recipe on The Kitchen. The recipe called for halibut, but the frozen halibut in our local store is ridiculously expensive so I used cod. Besides, halibut should stand on its own. It doesn’t need to be crusted with anything.

crusted codThe recipe was sponsored by a producer of refrigerated hash browns, which our store doesn’t carry, so I used frozen instead, which I thawed in the fridge. Seasoning with just salt, pepper, and garlic is not acceptable to either me or Terry, so I used the trusted, reliable Old Bay. Rather than using the stove-top method I cooked the cod in our toaster oven on the convection setting for fifteen minutes. The hash browns did not properly brown, so I gave it another ten on the broiler setting. Doing it again I might just broil the whole time.

Lettuce was thriving in our container garden, so I had a green salad with homemade vinaigrette.

A really nice Saturday dinner.

Sacred Music Friday: Spirit, Open My Heart

The Choir and Congregation of First Plymouth Church, Lincoln Nebraska, Tom Trenney, Organist.

cheesy polenta skillet

This was a very enjoyable recent weeknight dinner.

Cheesy Polenta SkilletThe cheesy polenta skillet recipe came from Cooking Light. Rather than using packaged polenta I followed the outline of Ina Garten’s polenta recipe. However I omitted the parmesan, crème fraiche, and butter. I put the polenta in a cast iron skillet and put it cooked it on the stove top for several minutes.

I then prepared the meat mixture in the sauce pan in which I made the polenta. I used ground beef rather than turkey and seasoned it with smoked paprika. I put the mixture on top of the polenta in the skillet and topped it with grated parmesan and shredded Monterey Jack rather than mozzarella, as I had the jack on hand.

It turned out really well. Terry went back for seconds.