Days 438 to 443 – Catching Up (part two)

I’ve done it again. I’ve gone ahead and fallen way behind on my posting. Really way behind. I can honestly say this quest is starting to take it’s toll on me. In truth, I never really intended to keep the quest going this long. My original goal was to do one year. But when I hit that, I decided to keep going. Now I can’t seem to stop. I’m still celebrating every day.  Still right on track there. It’s the posting part that is wearing me down. I attribute that partially to the change in daylight. I used to be able to wake up with the sun and write in the morning, but now the sun gets up later and so do I. I blame the Yankees as I stayed up way past my bedtime all last week trying to watch their playoff run. I guess that’s over now. I also blame just being tired form the whole thing. I need an exit plan. That’s coming, I just need to right the ship. I ask you, dear reader, to bear with me as I try to catch up again. I throw myself at your mercy.

Expect a few posts over the next few days that sum up the past few weeks.  I’ll get back on track here.  I promise. Just need to catch up first.

Day 438 – National Pulled Pork Day
It was a Friday and I knew I wouldn’t have time to make my own pulled pork. Pulled pork is fairly simple to make, but it does take time and planning to make a good one. I had not planned for this day which meant that I had not left myself enough time to make it. A catch-22, if you will. I wish I had. I like the smell of a pork shoulder that’s been cooking all day in the slow cooker. The aroma alone will make you drool. I also like having pulled pork around for a few days as leftovers because it’s one of those foods that seem to get better on the days after you cook it. But not today. Tonight, I would have to find another source for pulled pork. Naturally I was thinking barbecue restaurant and I started to do some online research to see if I could find a good place. But when it came time to eat, I decided to just go to Clements. There, I picked up a package of Jack Daniel’s Pulled Pork with Jack Daniel’s Barbeque Sauce. It was something that was all cooked and ready to go, I just had to heat it up. I also picked up some bulky rolls, some coleslaw and some ready-made scalloped potatoes (because why not).  When it came time to make it, I toasted the bun on the flattop so it got nice and crispy. Then I tossed on the pulled pork along with a scoop of Clements’ coleslaw.

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For what it is, the Jack Daniel’s pulled pork is pretty good. The meat is nice and tender and the sauce is sweet and flavorful. The sauce is also well distributed throughout so every piece gets plenty of barbecue sauce. You need that in a good pulled pork sandwich. The coleslaw was a nice addition adding in the hint of coolness along with a bit of tartness to offset the sweetness of the sauce. Lola wanted no part of the slaw, but she is never a slaw fan. All and all, not a bad little meal. Sure, had I made my own it would have been better and I would have had more leftovers, but in a pinch, this was a thumbs up especially when it was ready to serve within 15 minutes. A sandwich worthy of accolades and definitely worth a day of celebration.

Day 439 – World Egg Day

Nothing fancy about this day, but a day that I love to celebrate nonetheless. Eggs are always my fallback meal. If I’m hungry and don’t know what to eat, I can always make myself a fried egg sandwich and be happy. In fact, when Lola is away and I have the house to myself, that’s often what I will make for myself (in my underwear, of course). There was nothing particularly special about today’s egg sandwich. It was a fried egg served on a bulky roll with a slice of cheese and some pre-cooked bacon, but it was a good sandwich nonetheless. I made it so it was a little bit yolk-y, which is a good thing (unless you are driving). That allows you to sop up all the yolk while you are eating the sandwich adding more egg flavor to every bite. Cheers to eggs for providing us so many options for dinner and for baking. I should note that I posted this picture of my sandwich on Instagram and was hit by a comment from a random vegan telling me how cruel it is to eat eggs. I never thought my egg posts would offend anyone. It may be cruel and it may make me a bad person, but my love for eggs will not be stopped. Not today. Not on a day that the world is celebrating the incredible, edible egg.

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Day 440 – National Dessert Day
A pretty wide-open category here and a day that is not particularly too hard to celebrate it (and let’s face it, I’m no stranger to celebrating dessert). The hard part was trying to find the right celebration. I went through the mental checklist of all the usuals – the cakes, the cookies, the ice creams, the pies – and nothing was jumping out at me as being right. Then I decided to look in our pantry. That’s when I found my answer. At some point last year, in my hours of mindless googling, I came across something that immediately intrigued me. It was a cake mix. But it wasn’t just any kind of cake mix; it was a Krispy Kreme cake mix. Let that thought sink in: Krispy. Kreme. Cake. I tracked it down and ended up ordering a box of it. The packaging is mostly white in that Krispy Kreme branding style with the logo right on top. The picture of the cake on the package looks especially delicious and the star of the photo is of course the glaze which makes you want it to be exactly like the glaze you find on a Krispy Kreme donut. I decided to save the mix for a special occasion so it has been in the cupboard for about a year now. I decided National Dessert Day would be the day to bust it open.

It’s an easy cake to make, just like any boxed cake mix. You make it in a loaf pan so it is shaped more like a banana bread. You add the glaze after it is out of the oven for about ten minutes. The glaze comes in a packet and you squeeze it out all over the top and it spreads out across the cake. It looked fabulous but I must say it was a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting it to taste just like a Krispy Kreme donut and it did not. It was a cake. It had a slight hint of lemon in it which made it decidedly un-donut like. The glaze was good – how can a glaze not be good? – but it too was not exactly like the glaze you find on a nice hot fresh-from-the-oil donut. I wouldn’t go out of my way to make it again but it was definitely worth investigating. I had to take one for the team here and just find out what this was all about. That’s the kind of sacrifice you make on a holiday like National Dessert Day.

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Day 441 – National Red Wine Day
Lola and I decided to celebrate this very special day with a day of culture because we are so highbrow. While the bourgeois were all at home watching football and munching on cheese doodles, we were in Providence taking in a book reading at Books on the Square. Actually, we were there for a reading from one of Lola’s friends and teachers who happened to be in town to read from her memoir (“The Best of Us: A Memoir” by Joyce Maynard) and we wanted to show our support. Book readings are always kind of neat because you get to hear the story in the author’s own voice (literally) plus you get some background info on the book and the craft. This one was particularly interesting because the author, Joyce, was being interviewed by another author of note, Rhode Island’s own Ann Hood. All in all, not a bad way to spend an afternoon. But all that culture was getting us hungry, so since we were in Providence, we decided to go get dinner at Waterman Grille which was a few minutes away from Wayland Square and also one of the restaurants my company owns so we get a discount there. They are right on the Seekonk River (which admittedly doesn’t sound as charming as it is). The last time we were here was for the wedding of our friends Allie and Eric, but this would be our first time there for dinner. Naturally, we started things off with a bottle of wine for National Red Wine Day. I picked it from the list selecting a bottle of Brancaia TRE which is an Italian blend of Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. I’ve only recently started to understand wines and blends and what the different grapes are – that Vineyard education is paying off. Really, I don’t know all that much, but I know enough to make an educated decision. This bottle also happened to be in the lower-priced range which was also a factor in my selection. The server brought it over, uncorked it and poured me a taste to make sure it was suitable for our needs. It was, so then she filled our glasses.

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Every once and a while, you need to go out for dinner with the one you love. You just need the experience. The good food. The good wine. The good conversation. You have to get out of the confines of your home for a change of pace. That’s what tonight became. We had a great dinner starting with fresh oysters and fresh bread. I had their burger while Lola went with the braised short ribs. Both were excellent, although Lola’s was better. They went well with our wine too. We worked our way through the bottle and enjoyed the good things of life. A date night on a warm October Sunday evening. That’s how you celebrate Red Wine Day. All you peasants can keep drinking your canned beer and watch your football – we’re going out and getting cultured.

Day 442 – National Liqueur Day
I hate when the word “liqueur” pops up because it’s a word that I never remember how to spell correctly. It’s the second “u” at the end there. You’d be surprised at how many times I have had to write this word over the years, and every time, I have to rely on spellcheck. Some words are just like that and no matter how many times you write them out, they just puzzle you when it comes time to spelling them. Having said that, even though I don’t like the word liqueur, I do like what they are. Defined by Wikipedia, a liqueur is an alcoholic beverage made from a distilled spirit that has been flavored with fruit, cream, herbs, spices, flowers or nuts and bottled with added sugar. That covers a lot of ground there. They make a fine after dinner drink which is usually when you roll out a good liqueur (excepting Southern Comfort which is a liqueur although kind of its own thing). That’s how I decided to enjoy a liqueur today; after dinner, in front of my computer, attempting to work on my blog but really watching the Yankees game. I opted for Bailey’s on the rocks, but not really Bailey’s – we have a bottle of a cheaper brand (Ryan’s, I think). It did the job. Lola made it for me. She put it over ice and brought it to me in my office. I’m not typically the after-dinner drinker but I made the exception for the holiday and I was glad I did. It was smooth, sweet and creamy, as were the Yanks. This was game three of the series which they ended up winning 8 to 1. The Yankees are now undefeated for when I am sipping a glass of Irish Cream Liqueur on the rocks. (I probably should have kept that tradition going.) No matter, it was a nice night with classic fall entertainment with a sweet intoxicating liqueur. That’s a great way to celebrate National Liqueur Day

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Day 443 – National Pasta Day
Lots of pasta-bilities here and it all starts with a bad pun. Actually, for today’s celebration I was inspired by a pasta dish that I had made last week for National Moldy Cheese Day (a creamy pasta made with blue cheese and tomatoes). It was good. Really good, so I decided to try and make another version with a less pungent cream sauce. On my way home, I picked up some supplies. I went with a pasta called bombardoni which is a wide tubular pasta (really wide) with the ends cut on the diagonal. Think of them as super-sized penne. I’ve never used this particular pasta before but it reminded me of the pasta they use for the Buffalo Shrimp Pasta at Brick Alley Pub which is always a hit. That would be my inspiration although without the heat. I started boiling the pasta and with one minute left to go before it was perfectly al dente, I added in a container of baby spinach. That wilted and cooked right away, so I drained all into a colander and kept it there while I made my cream sauce. That was simple. I made a roux with butter and flour and then whisked in some cream.  When that heated up, I loaded in the parmesan cheese which helped thicken up the sauce. I seasoned with some pepper too and pretty soon I had a nice little alfredo sauce going. Then I decided to add some jarred Clements vodka sauce to the mix just to bring in a little more depth. When that heated, I tossed in the pasta and spinach and mixed it all together. Then I tossed in some leftover steak that I had sliced into small pieces just to add some protein. It came out looking good and I served it up with a garlic bread that I had cooked in the toaster oven.

I think I can say that I do cream sauces fairly well. In fact, ever since I learned how to make a roux, which was back in the 90’s when I was working part-time at a local pub, the knowledge has served me well. It is the key to my creamy chicken and rice soup (a Lola fave). It helps me make creamed onions for Thanksgiving (a usual request from my brother). And it makes me able to make creamy pasta without hesitation. It has been that knowledge that I have been able to use over and over for good purposes and today was another fine example. This was really good, as you can probably tell. Creamy, cheesy and filling. The pasta was the right choice too – thick enough to have the sauce really bind to it. I may return to this exact recipe again in the future because when you get something right, you tend to want it again. That was my Pasta Day and another testament to the diversity of pasta. There are few foods that can carry so many flavors and tastes and appear in so many dishes in so many forms. That kind of food will always deserve our celebration and our appreciation. And our garlic bread too.

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Much more to catch up on!  More coming soon!

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