Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Cooking in the Time of Coronavirus - Tips, Secrets and Recipes to Get You Through Sheltering in Place (Rosy's Test Kitchen #6)

In this time of the coronavirus and sheltering in place, restaurants are closed and many of us are cooking at home.  I have always liked to cook, but for many of you, maybe not, so I thought I would share some cooking secrets, tips, and unlikely ingredients I have learned about along the way and also share some great recipes. All have been tested in Rosy's Test Kitchen! So get your aprons on and let's begin!

(Note: This was a blog post idea I had started and intended to keep going but, well, I didn't. But now that most of us are stuck at home and doing our own cooking, I thought it would be appropriate to give you another installment.  There were five cooking posts before this one, so if you are interested and also want to try some delicious recipes, I will add the links to the end of this post. In past posts, I have dealt with cooking successes, failures, and conundrums, and put the spotlight on sweets, eggs, soup, salads, sandwiches, and comfort food and shared those recipes).

***First, Cooking Secrets!***

  • Like that old standard comfort food, tuna pasta salad? The secret to a great tuna pasta salad is Italian dressing.  Add that along with the mayo and you will never have a bland tuna pasta salad again.

  • Potato salad? The secret to a tasty potato salad is.... Ranch dressing.

  • If you want to add some zing to your lasagna, add pizza sauce to your marinara sauce (probably would work well with other pasta dishes to too.
  • For really juicy chicken breasts, start the chicken in a cold oven.  Yes, you heard me.  That goes against everything we have been taught but this ensures gradual, even cooking.  Drizzle 6 to 8 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breasts with oil, season and place in a cold oven set at 450 degrees. Bake for 25-30 minutes and then check for doneness (165 degrees or when no longer pink inside).  Thanks Better Homes and Gardens magazine!
  • And I would bet you never give anchovies or anchovie paste a second thought. Well, it is an ingredient you might not think of but it adds zip to all kinds of recipes. Cookbook author Alison Roman swears by them. "A good high-quality jar of anchovies will turn on all the lights for you, so to speak." She likes to put them on almost everything from from Caesar salad to slather all over chicken to eating them with potato chips. "Once you start cooking with them, you'll go from cautiously adding one fillet to wrecklessly dumping an entire jar into your next batch of tomato sauce." 

(From "Dining In" by Alison Roman.) 

  • Feta cheese takes cauliflower soup to the next level.  Serve with pomegranate seeds or craisins for a delightful meal. This is my new favorite soup and an easy way to get your cruciferous veggies.

Cauliflower and Feta Soup

In a large pot, heat 2 T. oil over medium heat.  Add 2 pounds of cauliflower florets and 2 gloves garlic.  Cook stirring often for 5 minutes.  Add 4 cups vegetable stock (you can use chicken stock too).  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add 1 1/4 cups feta cheese to the soup and using a blender, puree the soup.  To serve, top with pomegranate seeds (or craisin), mint and drizzle with oil.
(Rachael Ray Magazine December 2010)

You don't have anything else to do while you are sheltering-in-place, so why not give something new a try? That's what cooking is all about - creativity and taking some risks!

***Cooking Tips***

  • For quick fish tacos, use fish sticks!

  • And did you know that you can make chili without having to do any chopping whatsoever?  Well, you can!

No-Chop Chili

Cook a pound of ground beef in a large pot over medium-high heat until browned.  Stir in 2 cups water (or any broth you like), 1 1/2 c. frozen corn, 1 c. salsa, 2 T chili powder, 1 T sugar, 2 1/2 t. ground cumin, 1 1/2 t dried oregano, 1/4 t. salt, 1-16 oz. can chili beans, undrained and 1-14.5 can diced tomatoes undrained. Simmer for 25 minutes and voila!  It's chili time!

  • When you are craving a grilled cheese sandwich and you either don't have any butter or your butter is rock hard, use mayonaise!

  • Store butter in a butter bell.  It will stay fresh and always be spreadable.

  • An easy way to reheat cooked rice.  Place it in a plastic bad with a little water, close the bag loosely and microwave it on high for 4 minutes.

For more kitchen tips (1,453 to be exact) as well as emergency substitutions, measuring equivalents and what to do when things go wrong, check out "How to Break an Egg" by the editors, contributors and readers of "Fine Cooking Magazine."  It will be come your cooking bible!

***Some Favorite and Easy Recipes***

  • Did you know that you can make a risotto and not have to stand at the stove stirring and stirring and stirring?  Well, you can.  You can bake it and it still comes out creamy and delicious.

Baked Risotto with Bacon and Peas

4 strips bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 c. dry white wine
4 c. chicken broth or water
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. chopped basil plus more for garnish
2-3 T unsalted butter
1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 3 ounces) plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook bacon in an oven proof pot such as a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  When cooked, remove from pan and set aside reserving fat.  Add onion to fat and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add rice and stir to coat with bacon fat.  Stir in the wine and cook until it evaporates, 1 minute more.  Stir in broth, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Cover and bake 20-25 minutes.  Check on it.  Most of the liquid should be absorbed and the rice just cooked.  Stir in the peas and return to the oven uncovered for 5 more minutes.  Remove from oven and stir in the butter and the cheese, season to taste and spoon into bowls adding additional shaved parmesan and garnish with basil.
(O Magazine April 2012)

  • Like Chicken Tenders?  These are the best!

Best-Ever Baked Parmesan Chicken Tenders 
(and these are great cold, too) 

For 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken tenders, mix 1 c. panko and 1/2 c. grated parmesan.  In another bowl, mix 1/2 mayo, 1 T. Dijon, 1 1/2 t. finely chopped parsley, 1 t. salt, 1 t. pepper, 1/4 smoked paprika, 1/4 t. garlic powder and 1/4 t. onion powder (feel free to use whatever amounts you like best). Coat tenders in mayo mixture, then roll in the panko mixture.  Place the tenders on a baking sheet fitted with a rack and bake at 425 for about 15 minutes or until done. Yum! (Thank you, Ayesha Curry)!

  • For the best lasagna, try this recipe. 

It's easy, too, because it uses no-cook lasagna noodles. I have never been a big fan of no-cook lasagna noodles, but the key is making the dish ahead and letting it sit in the fridge overnight. The noodles soften in the sauce and they work perfectly and when you wake up in the morning, the lasagna is ready to go in the oven!  Also, note, this recipe includes that pizza sauce secret, but I didn't have any on hand and only had one jar of marinara so I substituted a can of regular tomato sauce. It worked fine, though pizza sauce would add that extra bit of zing. I am also a fan of using cottage cheese instead of ricotta, which you can do.  In this case, I had some ricotta and some leftover cottage cheese so used both. I am very liberal with cheese when making lasagna.  I also used fresh mozzarella instead of the bagged, shredded kind and it was great.  Lasagna is one of those dishes that allows all kinds of substitutions and additions. 

"Make-Ahead Lasagna"

1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. hot Italian sausage
2 c. marinara sauce
1 can (15 oz.) pizza sauce
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 carton (15 oz.) whole-milk ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. dried parsley flakes
1/2 t. pepper
12 no-cook lasagna noodles
4 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Cook the meat over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Drain.  Stir in the sauces.  In a bowl, mix the eggs, cheeses, parsley and pepper.  To assemble, put one cup of the sauce in the bottom of a 13 x 9 in. baking dish.  Layer with 4 noodles, half the cheese mixture, 1 cup meat sauce and 1 cup mozzarella.  Repeat layers and top with the remaining noodles, meat sauce and mozzarella.  Refrigerate covered for 8 hours or overnight.  When ready to bake, heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Remove the lasagna from the refrigerator while oven heats.  Bake covered for 45 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10-15 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting
(from "Taste of Home One Pot Favorites")

As promised, here are the links to earlier installments of Rosy's Test Kitchen:

#1 - Cooking Successes and Cooking Conundrums

#2 - Comfort Food

#3 - Soup, Salad and Sandwich

#4 - Sweets

#5 - Eggs

I hope this gives you some cooking inspiration as you shelter in place.

Have fun cooking!

Thanks for Reading!

See you soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

Friday, March 27, 2020

Love in the Time of Coronavirus, or How To Stay Together When You Have To Stay Together (Coronavirus 2020)

Sheltering in Place.  

Most of us haven't heard that expression or needed to.  But now with the threat of the coronavirus, it has become a common expression.  It basically means stay home.  If we are not out there around others, we are less likely to contract the virus or give it to others which in turn will stop the spike of new outbreaks.  So that's what we are all doing right now where I live and let's just say it has its downsides.

There is an old saying.  "Familiarity breeds contempt."  If that is so, sheltering in place for long periods of time for those of us who are living with a significant other could take a toll on our relationships. I mean, even in the best relationships, you need some alone time and that's not easy when you can't leave the house and that can be especially challenging if you and your partner have different schedules, e.g. he's an early riser and you are not or you are a night owl and he is not.

I know I have bragged about how to stay married (we have been married going on 36 years now), but these are terrible times and even the most robust marriage (or relationship) will be tried having to stay together inside for weeks at a time. How do you get some alone time?  

So in my quest to be of help to you all, I thought I would give you some tips on how to stay together when forced to stay together (and please excuse my use of the word "he." I know that if you are of the male persuasion you have your own issues with your female significant other, but tough. This is about me).

So here are Ten Tips on how to survive sheltering in place with your significant other:

1.  When he makes you watch something on TV that he wants to watch in the name of togetherness and then falls asleep, resist the urge to hit him with the remote.  Kick him instead. The remote would hurt more.

2.  When he coughs and clears his throat every morning while you are trying to sleep but does not have the excuse that he has the coronavirus, try to be understanding.  He is an old man.

3.  Meditating together can be a good thing...unless one of you falls asleep and snores mid-meditation (and it wasn't me).

4.  Likewise, earbuds are your friend.  They can cut out the sound of hacking, vocalizing and harmonica playing when you are trying to watch a Lifetime movie.

5.  If your significant other is antsy like mine, find excuses for him to get out of the house and go out to some of those places that are still open. Give him an incentive. "Hubby, will you run to the store?  I am going to make your favorite dinner and need some ingredients" or "Hubby, can you run to the hardware store for some nails/picture hangers/whatever. I would be ever so grateful (wink. wink.)"  He will enjoy having something to do (and something to look forward to - wink, wink), and you can have some peace and quiet for an hour or so when your natural inclination would be to bite his head off the next time he interrupts you while you are watching a Lifetime movie.

6.  When Hubby wants some together time watching TV and you just want to watch a Lifetime Movie and he doesn't (okay, I'm joking about the Lifetime movie thing.  It's a metaphor - well, sort of - it could be anything you want to do by yourself), instead of sarcastically saying "Oh, now you want some together time, now that you have nowhere else to go," compliment him profusely on what a good husband he is and then wait until he falls asleep (and he will) to go back to whatever it was you wanted to do by yourself, like watch a Lifetime Movie.

7. Play some two person games like Gin Rummy or Scrabble. But be careful with Scrabble.  If you are the least bit competitive, you could get into an argument over the spelling of a word or whether what you put down is a word at all, and then what might happen?  Oh, perhaps the board might get tipped over, especially if bourbon is in the equation? Not that I know anything about that.  I'm just sayin'.

8.  Let him help you cook. He can do the stuff you don't like to do such as mincing onions or pitting olives or counting out exactly 125 chocolate chips for the chocolate chip cookies (You don't really need exactly 125 chocolate chips, but that will keep him busy and out of your way)!

9.  Get outside and go for walks together with the dogs remembering to keep a social distance of at least six feet.  That will also give you some alone time (I'm walking six feet behind them doing some Forest Bathing).

10. If worse comes to worst, get in the car and pretend there is somewhere you can actually go!

Phyllis Diller was a stand-up comic that most of you have either never heard of or probably forgotten.

But she was one of the early and only women comics and her schtick was making fun of her husband whom she called "Fang."  Well, Hubby is my Fang with a little poetic license thrown in.  And he doesn't mind my having some fun with him in my blog posts because he loves me and he knows I do it with love and affection. And that's what this whole blog post is about.  Love.

Love in the time of Coronavirus. That's what we need. And I would like to add - we also need humor.

If we don't have love and humor during this terrible time, we won't make it.

So all kidding aside, and I'm mostly kidding, love is what we need and we are showing love for our fellow humans by staying home and not helping to spread the virus. We can show love to our significant others by being sensitive and considerate as we go about our days sheltering in place together. And we can keep each others' spirits up by sharing some humor. I hope I made you chuckle, and there are all kinds of other funny things out there on the Internet to take your mind off the virus. Share them with your friends and loved ones to give them a laugh.

It's a time of crisis like this when we find out what we and our significant others are made of, for good or ill. Do we band together or do we get on each other's nerves?  I know it's no fun to not have control over one's life, but we can't control events, only how we react to them. What Hubby and I are doing is trying to be grateful for what we have and to reflect on our lives and what we want to learn from this. And in my case, I am grateful for Hubby and I can't think of anyone else I would rather spend this time with.

But then this is only week two!

To be continued....

Thanks for Reading!

See you soon!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

What To Watch While You Are Sheltering in Place (Coronavirus 2020)

First and foremost, in this time of the coronavirus, also known as Covid-19, I hope you are all safe and doing your part to keep others safe.  That means "sheltering in place," washing your hands and keeping a "social distance" when you are with others.  This is a challenging time.  Our lives are disrupted, we are anxious, we are lonely and isolated.

So what to do?

I know what I do.  I go back to those old standbys - movies and TV! 

So I want to do my part to help keep you all sane during this difficult time by sharing what to watch while you are stuck at home.

First of all, movies.

The movies and I are old friends.  Movies have power and have gotten me through some tough times. I have written about that in the past in my blog post "Why Movies Matter."

I know you can't go out to the theatres right now, but you can actually catch some first run movies at home On Demand, movies you might be going to in the theatre right now if you could.  You can watch several first run movies like "The Hunt," "Emma (which I reviewed last Friday - got into my local theatre right under the wire)," and "The Way Back" and "The Invisible Man (both of which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago and both of which I loved!)." 

Comcast's Xfinity has them listed under "Movie Premieres" in its On Demand section. You will have to pay $19.95, which seems like a lot, but if you consider that's less than the price for two people to go out to the theatre not counting popcorn and drinks, it's not that bad.  You can also buy "Onward," the new Pixar animated film for $19.95, a good choice if you have little ones at home.

But if those films don't interest you, most of the Oscar nominated films from last year are out on DVD or on Netflix as well as "Rosy the Reviewer's Favorite Films of 2018" and Rosy the Reviewer's Favorite Films of 2019.  And if I had seen "1917," "Jexi," "Jojo Rabbit," "Little Women" or "Pain and Glory" before I went to press with my 2019 list, those would have been on my list too.

And I know you sports fans must be freaking out.  I know I am so disappointed that the World Figure Skating Championships won't be on.  So here is a recent list of the "50 Best Sports Movies of all Time."  Perhaps you can get your sports fix from some of those. And when you can go back to the theatre, don't miss "The Way Back."  That one is right up there too as one of the best.

So even though it's no fun to be stuck at home, there is plenty of content in the movie realm to keep you busy while you shelter in place, and now is your chance to get caught up on your movie watching so that when you get out of confinement and back to socializing, you will be in the know about all of the latest films. 

But if, like me, you also enjoy television, there is plenty to watch on TV as well.

I am a big movie fan but I am also a huge TV fan.  In fact, I'm a bit of an addict.  I have a long fascination and association with television that goes back to my childhood.  I remember as a little girl, before my family had a television, standing on a neighbor's porch watching their TV through their front window.  I was probably four.  When we did get a TV, I realized my Dad also had a fascination with it and, I have many happy memories of our time together watching TV.  Later in life, as a young married woman in college, my husband was drafted and sent to Vietnam for two years and after a long day at school followed by theatre rehearsals, I would come home to an empty off-campus apartment and Johnny Carson would keep me company.  And through the years, television has been there through thick and thin, taking my mind off of my divorce or becoming a family activity.  Television has always played a role in my life. TV snobs try to shame those of us who enjoy television, but I am unashamed (have you ever noticed that many of those folks who say "I never watch television" seem to know an awfully lot about it?  I'm just saying). I remain unashamed.  In fact, so unasahmed that I even immortalized my enjoyment in this blog post:  "Confessions of a TV Addict." 

So moving on, in this time of social distancing, here is a chance for you to binge-watch some of those famous series that you are embarassed to say you never saw.  For example, recently someone gave me hell for not having seen "Breaking Bad." It was something about my life wasn't worth living if I hadn't seen it.  I'm not going to go that far, but, yes, I plan to get on the "Breaking Bad" wagon and get that out of the way so I don't have to get a lecture like that again.  I also plan to watch "Mad Men," to see Elisabeth Moss in the early days of her career; "Orange is the New Black;" and "Succession," since it cleaned up at the last Emmy Awards. 

But if those don't interest you, there are tons more:

51 Best TV Shows to Binge Watch While Self Quanantining...

And if you are missing some of your favorite shows that are no longer on or have no new episodes, I have some recommendations:

It's a documentary but plays like a drama because in the House of Windsor, there is, well, lots and lots of drama!

It has all of the sex and excitement of GoT but with some time travel thrown in.  (However, I can only recommend the first three seasons.  I thought after they left Scotland it went off the rails a bit).

No clothes and no Jeff Probst. Yes, the "survivors" are naked, but in a pixalated way (except for butts - showing butts on TV doesn't appear to be a problem), and sometimes they are afraid because it's just two people (sometimes just one), but it's real survival and sometimes one or both don't make it for the 21 days they are out in the middle of nowhere in some unforgiving landscape. Well, it's as real as you can get with a camera crew and a medical team who helps you when you have to tap out because you ate too many wild berries or you just happen to be starving to death.  And if you want a chuckle or two (and don't we all need that?), check out my blog post where I wondered how I would do on "Naked and Afraid" - "How Would I Do on 'Naked and Afraid?" 

(Note: the best of the best survival shows is "Alone" on the History Channel.  On that show,  the participants really are alone. They are in very harsh environments, they have no camera crew (they film themselves) and have absolutely no amenities as in medical help.  However, it's not on right now and probably won't be again until around June, but past seasons are available On Demand).

 Some of your favorite chefs are pitted against each other!

It's an Australian show modeled after Willy Wonka. I know. And it's just as zany.

  • If you like documentaries, you can't beat "Hillary." (Hulu)

No matter how you feel about her, this wonderfully presented mini-docuseries will change your mind.

If you liked "Big Little Lies," "Little Fires Everywhere" (Hulu) has the same vibe and even stars Reese Witherspoon.

Question:  Does Reese ever play a role that isn't an upper class uptight tightass?

It's almost exactly the same show as PR, but actually a bit more fun.

Based on a Japanese hit show, it's a competition amongst famous singers and celebrities who wear elaborate disguises while they perform and the celebrity judges try to guess who they are.  It's silly and zany but just goofy enough to take your mind off what is happening in the real world.  And Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight have all competed---and lost!  Enough said.

  • If you like romantic comedies with a twist, try "Catastrophe." (Amazon)

And I mean a twist.  Two kind of unlikable characters get together and chaos ensues. It's British, so that kind of explains it.

  • If you crave comedies that appeal to us "older folks," try "Grace and Frankie." (Netflix)

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda have a lot of fun with this and it's fun for us to try to see where Jane Fonda's facelift line is.

  • If you like true crime, you can't beat "Dateline." (NBC)

Okay, we know the husband did it but it's worth it just to hear Keith Morrison's unctuous voice say "Could it be...muuuuuurder?"

  • And if you are really down and really need an escape from this coronavirus thing, you can't beat those old standbys - Lifetime Movies - another bit of entertainment I am known to partake in from time to time. (Lifetime Channel and Lifetime Movies Channel)

I recently enjoyed "Killer Dream Home" and "My Daughter's Psycho Friend."  C'mon, don't you want to find out how your dream home could kill you?  And haven't we and our kids had at least one psycho friend? But if you can't bring yourself to actually watch one of these, scan through the guide on your TV and check out the titles. The titles alone will make you laugh. Better yet, check out my blog post - yes, I actually wrote a blog post about Lifetime movies.  I guarantee it will make you laugh. "Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation..."  

Now, okay, I hear you.  "I don't get Netflix."  "I don't get "Hulu" "STARZ" or "Amazon Prime." Well, try this.  Sign up for a free trial with Netflix and Hulu (Hulu also provides the premium channels like STARZ and HBO) and then cancel them.  The free trial will probably get you through the sheltering at home thing. And if you don't have Amazon Prime, all I can ask is "Why?"

So I hope this helps fill up some of that alone time and that you have some fun with it. Hopefully, I have piqued your interest and you will try something new. And if ever there was a time to do that, this is it. And you can trust me.  I have been a lifelong movie and TV lover.  See this little girl?  She has been watching TV and movies since she was five. She knows her stuff!

But more important than what you do with your time while staying home, just know that staying home is doing the right thing all by itself.  Staying home might not only save your life but the lives of others.  And remember, in this time of uncertainty, there is always one thing we can count on. Change.  At some point, this will be over.

Sending out love to you and stay safe, my peeps!

Thanks for reading!

See you soon


"Love in the Time of Coronavirus, or How to Stay Together When You Have To Stay Together!" 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/rosythereviewer 

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database).

Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.