Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Playing Catch-Up, April 28-May 8, 2016

We went on a whirlwind visiting tour last week, spending time in the West Virginia woods with my mom, stepdad, almost grandma, fairy godmama, & friends of my mom's before heading to Edinboro, PA, for Boot's Army commissioning ceremony. Here's what we ate:

April 28: I ceded all dinner responsibilities to my darling dear for the last week Pie & Bubbles were in town before moving to Alaska. The 28th was their very last night here and we had cheeseburgers and chips for supper. I supplemented with baby carrots.

April 29: The kids' drop-off time at the Alaska Airlines kiosk was late enough that we ended up having "linner" (lunch plus dinner in one meal) on the way home. We were both starving and were delighted when a Rusty Bucket turned up on our way home. We shared fried pickle spears, then I ordered a Buffalo chicken sandwich (they use panko for the batter, which is wonderful---and seems to reheat better than other battered chicken sandwiches I've taken home) & Jeannene had a burger.

April 30: We were en route to West Virginia for our monthiversary dinner out. Jeannene really wanted Cracker Barrel, but we didn't find one when it was dinner time, so we stopped at A&A truck stop in Jackson, Ohio. It's also a Valero station and I've stopped there plenty of times for gas, water, potty breaks, but never for food. I've been missing out! I had delicious white beans & a corn muffin, with a piece of blackberry pie for dessert. The pie was very clearly made from scratch, with a wonderfully flaky crust and terrific filling. I can't recall what Jeannene had for dinner, but she had a great piece of chocolate cream pie for dessert!

May 1: My folks' wonderful neighbors and friends, Patty and Tom, invited us for supper on Sunday. Their house sits perched on a hill, with a beautiful vista of 2 counties spread below. The house is completely charming, filled with cool antiques and with a porch that wraps completely around all the sides. It was a bit chilly and a storm came up, our wee boy's very first thunderstorm, but we were able to eat outside. The rain on the metal roof was magical---the whole evening was magical. The food was exemplary, a marvelous vichyssoise, served hot in deference to the weather. Patty provided fresh chives, flower buds and all, to snip into our soup. She also made a beautiful salad, with a plate of stunning veggies to add to the greens as we pleased. We were also treated to fresh-baked rolls, all yeasty and cozy, piled up in their towel-lined basket. We had brought along a store-bought angel food cake, to which Patty added cherry pie topping. A truly splendid gathering.

May 2: After spending the day antique shopping in Nitro, we headed to my 95-year-old almost-grandma's for dinner. Usually, we have dinner at her place the Saturdays of our visits, but since we got in too late this visit, we bumped our dinner together to Monday. We almost always have some yummy vegetarian meal, as my folks are vegetarians and have been since the 1970s. My mom makes scrumptious lasagnas and quiches and bean dishes. However, on this occasion, we had meatloaf. Yes, with real ground beef. I was surprised to hear my mom say that's what we were having and even more astonished at how great her meatloaf is! She did individual meatloaves, in tins given to her by my aunt, Miyoko. The round tins, for me, Jeannene, and my almost-grandma, had beef meatloaf, while the loaf tins held veggiecrumbleloaves. To go with the meatloaf, my mom made mashed potatoes and green beans. Her green beans were cooked perfectly. I asked her how long she had done them, as mine always end up either too crisp or too soft. Her frustrating response was "until they're done." To go with the supper, I made a rhubarb dump cake, one of my favorite desserts.

Rhubarb Dump Cake
1 lb. rhubarb, sliced about 1/4" thick
1 c. sugar
3 oz. package strawberry Jell-o (we used Strawberry Crush Jell-o; feel free to play around with flavors)
1 box white cake mix (yellow is fine, too, and I've been thinking it would be fun to try lemon or orange sometime---you could probably do a mandarin orange one with orange cake mix and orange Jell-o, too)
1 c. water
1/4 c. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place rhubarb in an even layer on the bottom of a greased 13x9 baking pan. Sprinkle evenly with sugar, Jell-o, then cake mix. Pour water evenly over the top, followed by butter. Do not mix! I know it sounds nuts, but trust me. Just make sure your water and butter are poured evenly on the other ingredients and go all the way out to the sides. Bake 45 minutes. Cool a few minutes before cutting. 

May 3: We went up to Ravenswood for a visit to my fairy godmama Kay's Enchanted Forest. Enchanted it is, almost as magical as Kay herself. After a marvelous visit and reluctant leave-taking, we found ourselves hungry in Cross Lanes and not interested in being on the road any longer. So, we defaulted to TGI Friday's for dinner. My mom's able to get some good veggie dishes there---this time, she chose the veggie burger with broccoli, which came cooked just right. I am always reluctant to order broccoli in restaurants because it is so often overcooked. We also ordered some fried green beans for an appetizer she could eat and potstickers for us meat-eaters. Jeannene ordered salmon and proclaimed it great. I had a lovely romaine & kale Caesar and boneless wings that came out in two rounds, as they ran out halfway through filling my order. The first round were lukewarm and scantily sauced. By the time the second round came, I was done eating. Sadly, that round was piping hot and nicely saucy---and it ended up staying in the room fridge when we left town. I hope the hotel maid found it and likes wings and isn't creeped out by eating leftovers from someone else. If I were a hotel maid and found cool food in the fridges, I would take it home---as long as I was allowed to. I wonder what the protocol is on that. I know there are a lot of people who would never eat something left in a hotel room fridge, but I would. After all, I ate food my granddaddy scavenged from dumpsters when I was a kid. It's not that it was all we had to eat, by any means. It was the adventure of it! He brought us entire bags of potatoes, sometimes, that were perfectly fine. I always thought it was so amazing, the perfectly good things that had been thrown away. I'm glad my granddad and his best friend were dumpster divers. My mom and I tried it a couple of times, but I'm afraid we're both too rule-abidey to have gotten into it very much, even though we made some good finds. I digress. For dessert, we three dug into some sort of gooey, warm brownie & ice cream concoction. Jeannene was very surprised and pleased at my mom, who she thinks eats healthfully at all times, quite happily nomming on the rich dessert. I will have to remind her that my mom once ate an ice cream sundae for dinner. She does eat healthfully most of the time---and passes on some really good recipes to me---but she is certainly not averse to the occasional dessert!

May 4: After spending the day visiting at my folks' home, Hickory Hill, way back in the woods, and the evening swimming in the hotel pool, we went to Cracker Barrel for dinner. Jeannene finally got her wish and very cheerfully tucked into their dinner of the day, a sort of combination between baked chicken and broccoli cheese casserole, with hash brown casserole that seemed a bit past its prime and corn. I loved my mom's meatloaf so much that I planned to get some there, but they had run out. It's probably just as well. I'm sure it wouldn't have been as good as hers. I ended up with a mediocre country fried steak, mashed potatoes with scant gravy, and corn. Apparently, going in 40 minutes before closing is not the best idea. My mom's baked potato looked very good, though, and, really, Jeannene's chicken was quite tasty. Our waitress was very nice, too, if quite tired. 

May 5: On our wee boy's 6 month birthday, we hit the road for Edinboro, PA, and his oldest brother's Army commissioning. Boot and his buddies had been in the habit of going to Compadres for cheap tacos on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We had dinner there---not bad at all, if not the most authentic. Boot went for quesadillas, while I had chicken chimichangas (much smaller than I usually find, which was good, as Boot had to eat my second one) and my darling had a big burrito. The only thing that wasn't good was the frozen margaritas. The waitress had warned us that they would be kind of watery, as their machine was worn out from Cinco de Mayo revelers. We gave the go-ahead, but probably should have ordered them on the rocks. Ah, well.

May 6: We let the graduate & new 2nd Lieutenant choose dinner on our last night in Edinboro. He was in the mood for wings and said the best ones were to be found at The Empty Keg. By going early, before all the other revelers arrived, we were able to get a table easily. We started with popcorn chicken in cool buffalo sauce (buffalo mixed with ranch) and waffle fries with cheese dip, Boot's recommendation. I ordered a tasty Philly cheese steak sandwich (which was very light on the cheese and didn't actually need it) and steak fries. I only tried one of Jeannene's wings, a standard buffalo that was anything but standard---so delicious I wished I'd ordered them. She also got garlic butter wings. Boot ordered Hawaiian and another kind. It was a nice early dinner. I'll definitely miss eating in Edinboro, especially at Flip. We didn't make it there this trip. 

May 7: We arrived home right around dinner time on Saturday. Jeannene didn't feel like cooking and said she'd either pick up some food or order pizza. I nixed the pizza, reminding her that she orders pizza every single time Boot's visiting. As a college kid, he probably eats pizza all the time and he didn't seem terribly excited about getting pizza last time he was here. My commentary was also motivated by my lack of excitement over pizza. When given the option, Boot also nixed pizza. We ends dup all going out together, to Sullivan's Public House. Boot had never had Irish food and seemed a bit skeptical, but he dug right into his bangers and mash and pronounced it good. I finally got the chicken toastie, grilled chicken on sourdough with extra-sharp cheddar and pink sauce. I'd been eying it for months, but had never ordered it---I will definitely order it again! Jeannene had the same thing she had last time, "true Irish bacon" with cabbage and mashed potatoes. It's a wonderfully juicy pork roast. The waitress last time subbed asparagus, but man, the cabbage is awesome! We stopped by Eva's for ice cream afterward, our first visit this season. Boot loves ice cream. He had some kind of blizzard-ish drink and Jeannene chose a Mississippi Mud version of the same for me. It had good, strong coffee flavor! I couldn't finish the medium, though. Next time, I will instruct her to get me a small. She had a plain vanilla cone, which was fab.

May 8: We'd planned to be in Edinboro & eating at Flip for Mother's Day, but since Boot skipped the graduation ceremony, we were actually home. We tried Camp Ticonderoga and King's Court for Mother's Day brunch options, but both were booked. I'd spotted a sign for Red Knapp's brunch, so suggested we call there. They did have an opening, at 3:30, so we booked it. Now, normally, I like the food there. However, I was pretty much completely unimpressed with the buffet. I'm not a big fan of buffets in the first place and this one made no effort to be stellar. The scrambled eggs were cold, as were some of the other items, and nothing stood out as particularly tasty except the turkey, which was surprisingly juicy and flavorful. Ah, well, they offered pieces of Bumpy Cake as a dessert option, so all was not lost---and the company was terrific! I think we'll stick to burgers and pizza and that kind of thing, though, when we go to Red Knapp's. 

May 9: My dear wife flew out to NJ for work yesterday. Boot went to bed right after our Mother's Day meal and has been there pretty much ever since, recovering from a bad cold and, probably, exhaustion from excelling so tremendously for the last 4 years of ROTC, undergrad, and the start of his grad work. He got his undergrad degree, graduating Summa Cum Laude and receiving a number of other awards and honors, with only 21 hours to go on a Masters'. He was a Distinguished Military Graduate in ROTC, as well. So, I decided to let him rest in this week between college and arrival at his first post. About 10:30, I realized I should probably feed myself and, if he was hungry, Boot. He was not, but I greatly enjoyed some potato & onion hash with fried eggs. I meant to have salad, as well, with pineapple for dessert. However, I got full on just the eggs & hash. For the hash, I just diced some potatoes (not peeled) and fried them up in olive oil with onion half-moons, a little salt, and a bit more cayenne than I'd intended. I got the idea from Nigella Lawson, who ends her version of the recipe, "Carry to sofa or bed and eat in perfect solitude." I ate at the table, but appreciated the directions, nonetheless. 

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