Virtual Reality 

I have an unexpected “new thing” this week.  Our department has a staff retreat every year at the community room of a property funded by our Affordable Housing Program grants.

After continuous improvement, team building, goal setting, naming our new online portal and lunch, we end the day with a fun activity courtesy of our database manager – we get to experience virtual reality.

I intend to pass on the activity.  I don’t want future staff retreats to include comments such as, “Remember when our department head threw up on us after virtual reality?”  But one of our analysts convinces me that the ocean diving experience does not make you feel motion sick so I decide to play along.

This is fun and cool and amazing!  I had no idea you could turn 360 degrees and see images all around.  I’m in a diving cage descending the ocean with fish and sting rays and colorful jellyfish.  I feel brave enough to peer over the edge of the diving cage. 

Very fun!  What have you done recently to get out of your comfort zone?


Turkey Meatloaf in Baked Beans

So I’m stretching the definition of “new” this week just to have some type of blog post.  It’s been a while since I posted anything (an Indy car ride at the office Christmas party) and I noticed that I’m not looking for new recipes or ingredients or thinking about trying new things. 

Two years ago when I challenged myself to do 50 new things my 50th year, the months I really struggled were in January and February. In the Midwest, these are months to stay cozy inside and eat warm comfort food.  It’s not the time to go outside doing new things or searching for unusual ingredients. 

I’ve made this recipe before and it’s a family hit.  I’m calling it a “new thing” because the combination of meatloaf and baked beans is new to me and I was intrigued enough to try the recipe. I found the recipe in Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. 

Start by cutting 4 strips of bacon into pieces and crisping the pieces in a skillet.  Chop 4 scallions and add them to 2 cans of baked beans in a casserole dish.  Stir in the crisped bacon and a spoonful of the drippings.

The meatloaf is made with ground turkey and several other ingredients. Whiz 1 cup seasoned stuffing cubes in a food processor. Put them in a large bowl and add some milk to moisten. Add the turkey and mix in 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 egg, 3-4 Tablespoons ketchup, 3-4 Tablespoons finely chopped onion, 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 Tablespoons spicy mustard, 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar and 2 large cloves garlic, chopped.  The recipe also calls for fresh thyme and sage but I have challenges using up fresh herbs and only used fresh parsley. 

Lightly form the mixture into 4 loaves and nestle them among the baked beans. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.  

Even with a long list of ingredients, the recipe is ready to serve in under an hour.  Winter comfort food with a twist!

Indy Car Ride

My next “New Thing” is unplanned and unexpected.  I ride in a street legal Indy car. 

I am fortunate enough to work for a company that holds a nice holiday party for staff and guests. We all get dressed up and enjoy a nice meal together with some door prizes for fun.  Our 2016 event is at the Dallara car factory in Speedway, Indiana.  Did you know the Indianapolis 500 is technically in Speedway rather than Indianapolis?

The venue has some Indy 500 race displays and racing simulators.  There is also the opportunity to ride in an Indy car.  I know that my husband really wants to do this so I try to be a good sport.  Then I try to back out and sacrifice my spot for the sake of the long line but I don’t get away with that.  The staff puts a helmet on my head and  buckles me into the car!

We drive a few blocks and through a roundabout before returning to the party center. It’s not as bad as I expected, in fact, not bad at all!!  The hardest part is getting out of the car in a dress and heels…

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!!

Sausage-Apple Dutch Baby

My next “New Thing” comes out of desperation to use up shipments of Harry and David pears from my generous father-in-law.  The first box contained 12 pears and then we received a treat basket with 5 more…

What to do with so many pears?

This recipe from Midwest Living magazine caught my eye since I’ve never made (or had) Dutch baby pancakes before.  The recipe calls for apples but I figure pears will work when one has a surplus.  

  • 3 ounces fully cooked smoked chicken-apple sausage, sliced crosswise
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 medium red cooking apple, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup 


Cook the sausage in 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter using a cast iron or oven safe skillet.  In a medium bowl, beat eggs well.  Add flour, milk, granulated sugar, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon, whisking vigorously. 

Pour the pancake batter over the sausage.  Transfer to an oven preheated to 425 degrees and bake for about 15 minutes, until browned and puffy.

While the Dutch Baby is cooking in the oven, cook the fruit, pears in this case, in the remaining butter.  Cook for about 5 minutes until the fruit is browning on the edges.  Add brown sugar and maple syrup, cooking 2 – 3 minutes more.  

Serve the Dutch Baby topped with the cooked fruit.  The finished product is so tasty.  I would definitely make this again.  Any recipes for the rest of the pears??

Clare’s Wheaten Bread

If you’re going to be inside on a fall day, it’s nice to have the kitchen feel warm with the smell of baking bread.  For my next “new thing” from Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite, I try Clare’s Wheaten Bread.  

The ingredients are:

  • 5 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk

I build on a previous “new thing” by finding another recipe using buttermilk. 

The bread mixes up fairly easily into a sticky dough.  You sift the flours and baking soda together, mix in the sugar and rub in the butter with your fingers.

Add the buttermilk.  The recipe says you may need to add more liquid or more flour but I find the recipe measurements work well.  Bring the dough together with your hands and put it into a loaf pan.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and oats and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

With oats sprinkled on top, the bread is attractive enough to make a hostess gift.

I enjoy some with afternoon tea.

Chicken and Squash with Soy and Star Anise

With the switch off Daylight Savings Time, the days seem shorter in the Midwest since it’s dark while I’m driving home.  The mornings are cooler and it definitely feels like fall.  As I cook through Diana Henry’s A Change of Appetite, I try another “new thing” as an ingredient- this time it’s star anise in a chicken and squash recipe.

This recipe is easy to make, possibly since the intro says it is adapted from an American recipe so the process is familiar to me. Start by browning the chicken in a sauté pan.  Remove the browned chicken, reserving about 1 Tablespoon of the fat.  Then mix soy sauce, vinegar and fish sauce with dark brown sugar.  Heat the reserved fat and add chile, ginger and garlic.  Add some scallions and cook over medium heat for a couple minutes before adding the soy sauce mixture.   

Return the chicken to the pan plus the butternut squash, orange zest, orange juice and star anise.  Add 3-4 Tablespoons water to the pan, cover and finish in the oven set at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.    

These are great fall flavors. What do you want to cook on a fall day?

Almond Turmeric Potatoes 

My next “New Thing” ingredient is turmeric which I’ve been reading about but never cooked with.  I intended to use it in a lentil recipe.  Then this recipe from The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper caught my eye.  It is so easy – a definite keeper!

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and thin sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 – 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and sliced as thin as possible
  • 2 Tablespoons chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup sliced toasted almonds

Film a 4-quart saucepan with the olive oil and set over medium-high heat.  Layer the onion, turmeric, salt, pepper, and potatoes.  Let the mixture cook, without stirring, until the onion starts to soften and brown. 

Add the broth, cover, and reduce the heat to low.  Don’t stir, but shake the pan periodically and check that there is still some liquid in the bottom.  Cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until there is a syrupy brown glaze on the bottom of the pan.  Sprinkle with the almonds just before serving.  


Here is the link to the recipe on the Splendid Table website which you should follow if you make this.  The Splendid Table recipes are detailed and I find them to be foolproof.  Enjoy!