Little Fires Everywhere; Celeste Ng

Two families living in Shaker Heights: haves vs have nots; artists vs consumers; mean mothers etc etc.   It’s nice to read a novel full of Cleveland references but I was disappointed in the novel overall due to the continuing changing points of views and the very unlikely plot and charachters.

PJH rating: ***

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I had a bad year in 2017 in terms of reading.  I only read 21 books which is pretty bad.  I blame Donald Trump you MFer.  2018 will be better.  My Absolute Darling has been on many top lists for 2017, has been on my waitlist forever but I found a copy at the library.  I read it in one day which in itself results in a good rating.  Any book you can’t put down is good in my book.  But the subject matter is so awful and so violent I second guess myself.  It’s also pretty amazing that it is the first novel for this author.

PJH Rating: ****1/2

Mussels Stuffed with Spinach and Parmesan

We did seven fishes for Christmas Eve this year.

Menu:

  1. Smoked salmon platter
  2. House smoked tuna dip
  3. Lobster bisque
  4. Caesar salad with anchovies
  5. Mussels Stuffed with Spinach and Parmesan
  6. Shrimp with mayo, lemon and red onions
  7. Crab Cakes

The smoked tuna dip and mussels were new recipes and both were great.  Here’s a couple Xmas Eve photos and recipe for the mussels – great because you can make them totally ahead, pop them under the broiler when ready to serve and they’re super tasty.

Xmas eve mass… church asked everyone to take photos before mass started
posing girls

Owen was the Xmas Even entertainment

opening presents

Xmas jammies 2017
girl power

Mussels Stuffed with Spinach and Parmesan

Fine Cooking Issue 14

  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 Tbs. finely chopped shallots
  • 1 tsp. cracked black pepper
  • 4 sprigs parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme (omit if fresh isn’t available)
  • 28 medium mussels (about 2 lb.), sorted and cleaned

for the stuffing:

  • 2 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • 2 cups lightly packed, washed, stemmed, and chopped fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 Tbs. chopped parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine the wine, 2 Tbs. of the shallots, pepper, parsley sprigs, bay leaf, and thyme in a pot (with a lid) large enough to accommodate the mussels when their shells have opened. Bring to a boil, add the mussels, cover, and steam until just opened, 2 to 3 minutes. Try not to steam the mussels longer than necessary, because they’ll be cooked again later. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid through a strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth and reserve.

For the stuffing—Heat the butter in a heavy-based pan. Add the remaining shallots and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the spinach, cover, and cook briefly until the spinach wilts. Uncover and cook until the liquid from the spinach evaporates, another 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the strained mussel liquid and cook until the mixture is almost dry, about 5 minutes. Add the cream and again cook until the mixture is almost dry, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped parsley and season to taste with salt and pepper; the mixture should be quite peppery.

Heat the broiler. Remove the mussels from their shells. Make a bed of rock salt or crumpled foil on a baking sheet (to steady the shells) and arrange as many half shells as you have mussel meats. Put a mussel meat on each half shell and spoon a teaspoonful of the spinach mixture over each. Top with the grated cheese and broil until golden and bubbly, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve with small forks and bread to soak up the rich juices

12/2017 note: I made a double batch – with about 4 lbs of smallish mussels – way over 100 – and two reg bags of fresh spinach.  I ran out of spinach for the last bit so would make more spinach next time.

Peanut Sauce

A good dip for crudites.  We especially like it with blanched cauliflower.

  • 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts (abbout 2.5 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 T creamy peanut butter (do not use old fashioned style or freshly ground)
  • 2 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 T (generous) seeded minced jalapeno chili
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/2 t chili powder

Grind peanuts in processsor

Add remaining ingredients and process until well-blended

(Can be made 2 days ahead.  Cover and chill.  Serve at room temp.)

Hocking Hills

Hocking Hills State Park

11/11/2017

Courtney and I went on a long weekend trip to southern Ohio to celebrate her birthday.  Leaving Sophie and Jack at home we headed south stopping at Heinen’s in Strongsville to stock up for the weekend.  We stopped at the new Ikea in Columbus and stayed for about an hour and a half checking it out, just buying a few things – our typical Ikea items.  The checkout lines were horrendous – would have skipped the whole place if we knew we would have to wait for so long.  We headed to downtown Columbus and had lunch at Wolf’s Ridge Brewery.  Nice place and ended up having brunch.  Their coffee and vanilla infused beer was a keeper.  I brought a six pack to bring home.  We headed down to Hocking Hills area which was just about an hour from Columbus.  We stayed in a cabin at Chalets in Hocking Hills.  It was a good choice – all the cabins were private, seemed nice and only a minute or so from the state parks.  We settled in, tried out the hot tub and quickly got into relax mode.  We made steak, baked potatoes and salad for dinner and hung out for the rest of the evening.

enjoying beers at Wolf’s Ridge
our cabin

11/12/2017

After a good nights sleep we drove to the state park which was just five minutes away.  We went on a vigorous hike from Old Man’s Cave to Cedar Falls – about six miles and it took us 2 1/2 hours.  It was a cloudy day in the low 40’s but quickly warmed up as we started walking through the woods.  There were very few people parked when we started and we only ran into people a few times.  The area is beautiful with huge ravines, hemlock forests, mossy caves and waterfalls.  We especially liked Cedar Falls area that felt prehistoric and the walk from there back to Old Man’s Cave was through the ravine and pretty amazing.  We went back to our cabin after our long hike and took a nice long hot tub soak, had lunch and relaxed for a few hours.  We headed out to an area called Rock House around 3:00 and just hiked about an hour around the area.  After walking down into a huge ravine there was a huge cave that you could walk into that was like a rock house.  Pretty cool.  Made it back for a quick cocktail and then went to dinner at the Inn at Cedar Falls where we had a great dinner.  It’s a nice relaxed but classy atmosphere and food was great – we both had salad and then I had rack of lamb with cous cous and great roast carrots, Courtney had pistachio crusted scallops with risotto and we split a pumpkin creme brûlée for dessert.  All very good.  Quickly crashed at home after a long day.

We had the trails to ourself
it quickly turned into a beautiful day
Cedar Falls
Cedar Falls… all to ourselves

made it back to Old Man’s Cave
Rock House
we were there at the golden hour which was great for picture taking

11/13/2017

We went on another 5 mile aggressive hike in the morning, starting at Ash Cave, going to Cedar Falls and then back.  Beautiful scenery again and we had the trails all to ourselves other than the trailheads where there were just a few people.  Found a fire tower towards the middle of the trek – we started climbing up but changed our mind about 1/3 of the way up as it was pretty scary.  We relaxed the afternoon away not doing much of anything besides hot tubbing, reading and sleeping.  We ended up not turning on the TV once which is always a good sign.  We cooked ravioli for dinner and went to bed really early.

thinking about it…
birthday girl
Ash cave

11/14/17

We took off around 9:00 from our cabin and decided to drive home through Amish country as we wanted to check out a place that sold sheds that we heard about.  It was interesting driving through all the little, mostly depressed towns.  Trump country for sure.  The shed store didn’t impress us much but we did stop for lunch at Der Dutchman which is always the best reason to go to Amish country.  We also stopped at Lehman’s and got a few things.  Got home without any trouble and after getting unpacked we decided to run downtown to see if we could get lucky at the Wicked lottery.  Sure enough… Courtney’s name was drawn so we lucked out and got 2 $25 tickets box seats right up front.  We hung out at Masthead for an hour having beer and pizza and then saw Wicked which was great once again.

we drove by the Loggerberger HQ building somewhere in the middle of OH.
winner winner

Pepper Steak

A summer classic when the tomatoes are prime

Pepper Steak

Linda Holzheimer

  • 3 T. oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs flank or round steak cut into thin strips
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • dash pepper
  • 1/4 t. ginger
  • 1/4 t. sugar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 2 green peppers cut into large chunks
  • 1 lb. fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 4 medium sized tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 c. beef broth

Heat oil in wok or large frying pan.  Add meat, garlic, salt, pepper, ginger and sugar; stir-fry until beef is no longer pink.  Move meat from center of skillet; add soy sauce, green pepper and onion.  Cook, covered about 3 minutes.  Move food from center of wok and add tomatoes and bean sprouts; cook 3 more minutes.  Make a smooth mixture of cornstarch and broth; add to hot mixture.  Stir gently until thickened.  Service over hot white rice.