Vampire Protection

I’ve been casting about for another recipe to post, and eventually I’ll come up with something, but meanwhile here is something that is more instructions than actual recipe. We just call it “Spinach-Garlic Tofu” (though it could equally well be “Garlic Spinach Tofu”), and it started as an attempt to replicate a dish my husband used to enjoy at a Chinese restaurant where he often ate when he was working in Mobile. Never having experienced the entrée myself, I have no idea whether this even comes close, but it’s a staple in our house, anyway. Here’s what we’ve evolved.

The dish has primarily just the three ingredients implied in the name:

Spinach: You can go to the trouble of using fresh spinach if you’re really ambitious, but I usually settle for a one-pound bag of frozen chopped spinach.

Garlic: One entire bulb, peeled and minced. Lately I’ve started using a mini food processor to mince it—it’s a lot faster, and there’s not much waste.

Tofu: One package, 12 to 16 ounces, diced into ⅜″–½″ cubes. I get whatever Walmart has on the day I’m shopping (Mori-Nu, Nasoya, Azumaya), usually Firm or Extra Firm; I think this is what I got last time.

In a 12″ skillet if you have one (I have only 10″, so I use a large stock pot), heat two tablespoons of oil (I use olive). You may want to add a large quantity of salt, though it won’t do any good. No matter how much salt you add while cooking this, it will need more when you eat it.

Sauté the garlic and tofu briefly, then add the spinach. If you are using frozen, you may want to thaw it first, but it’s actually easier to get all of it out of the package if it’s still frozen, and it thaws quickly in cooking. If you’re using fresh spinach, you will also need additional time to cook it down.

Cover and simmer “awhile”; serve over cooked rice. I generally start heating the water for the rice about the same time I start heating the oil, which means that the rice is ready in 20 minutes or so, at which point the spinach concoction should be ready to serve as well.

This makes four hearty servings, so I make four servings of rice as well. A couple of days later, when we have the leftovers, it will be even better because the flavors have had more time to mingle, and preparing it just requires putting the rice in a bowl, covering it with the spinach mixture, and microwaving (covered) for a couple of minutes (the photo above was taken of the second outing).

Needless to say, this is very garlicky. You will not need to worry about vampires, but you may find that friends who have not shared your meal will also give you a wide berth!

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Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 6-25-17

Just a few more photos of the only construction site I’m still actively monitoring.

352 N. Summit Street

The front porch has been screened. Here’s how it appears from the street and from the entry (the door has not yet been screened).

The previously unidentified wiring beside the door (above the doorbell) is now attached to a Seco-Larm Enforcer security camera.

The house was securely locked up today, but, peering through the sunroom door, I could tell that the kitchen faucet and handle have finally been completely installed. The Badger box was no longer on the counter, so I assume the disposal has also been installed.

Making a circuit of the house, I found this attractive hose reel.

And the rear courtyard now sports a fountain.

Here’s a view of the finished rear entrance, with a close-up of one of the lanterns.

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Green Beans with Sour Cream Dressing

This is another “trousseau” recipe but one I haven’t made for many years because of difficulty in getting the ingredients. It makes a really pretty dish for a “ladies’ luncheon” or to take to a party, but it requires “vertical pack” or “asparagus style” whole green beans. The Code of Federal Regulations of the United States of America (page 3523) provided this definition in 1938:

Later editions of the code provide more succinct but similar definitions. The term “vertical pack” can’t be found in recent editions, which is not surprising since the beans themselves are so hard to come by. Google did find one supplier, Tillen Farms, which apparently sells them both in jars and canned.


This dish can be made with ordinary whole green beans; they’ll still taste good even if they’re served higgledy-piggledy, or you can make an effort to straighten them out as much as possible before serving. Or you could cook beans from scratch and lay them out vertically to cool. For the most elegant presentation, however, you do want the beans to be parallel. The dressing could also be used on asparagus, which doesn’t present the same sourcing problems.

Green Beans with Sour Cream Dressing

Arrange two cans of vertical-pack whole green beans in a baking dish or serving container. Top with onion rings, a tablespoon (or more) of oil-and-vinegar (or Italian) dressing, and Spice Island cracked pepper. Chill in refrigerator for an hour or more, then drain and serve cold with this dressing on top.

½ cup mayonnaise
½ pint sour cream
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
½ teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Update: I have found that Walmart has what are essentially “vertical pack” fresh green beans in its produce section. These Green Line beans come in the 8-oz. size shown and also in a 12-oz. size. This seems not to be a Walmart brand, so they are probably available elsewhere as well.

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Bluff Neighborhood Construction Report 6-18-17

I thought I had written the last of these reports, but this weekend 252 N. Bayview was unlocked, so I have a few more photos to share.

352 N. Summit Street

Framing has been added for a screened portion of the front porch. The painter’s tape and signs are to bar entrance before Monday, June 12, after a second round of floor finishing.

Inside, kitchen appliances have been installed, though plumbing in the sink is still not complete, and the Badger garbage disposal is still out on the counter. Appliances that have been installed include the GE Café™ Series 36″ Built-In Gas Cooktop with GE Universal 36″ Telescopic Downdraft System, the GE Café™ Series 30″ Built-In Single Convection Wall Oven, the GE Café™ Series ENERGY STAR® 27.8 Cu. Ft. French-Door Refrigerator with Hot Water Dispenser, and the GE Café™ Series Stainless Interior Built-In Dishwasher with Hidden Controls (or similar).

An “aerial” view from the stairs.

This shot shows all the connections required for the cooktop and oven.

I had wondered about the undercounter placement of a microwave oven. It turns out that the Monogram oven is a top-loading drawer-style model.

In the master bedroom, the glass doors and partitions to be installed in the shower stall.

In the upstairs hall bathroom, shower doors have already been installed.

In the en suite bathroom, the Ara® Single Handle Vessel Lavatory Faucet with Channel Spout has now been installed.

A tiled backsplash has been added in the “break room” at the top of the stairs.

Downstairs, in the den, there are new built-ins.

In the foyer, shades have been added to the Lorraine Architectural Railing Sconces from Restoration Hardware, and a chandelier has been hung.

120 Kiefer Avenue

This extended fence and garish gate were added last week.

The house is in the process of being (re)painted white.

The blue paint on the window frame suggests that perhaps the blue-and-white color scheme is being contemplated for the house as well.

Closed blinds at all the windows make it difficult to tell what (if anything) is being done inside.

Elsewhere Around the Neighborhood

The large red-brick house at 120 N. Summit (corner of Oak Avenue), seen here in an April 2011 Google Street View, is being painted.

And our neighbors at 60 N. Summit seem to have installed “burglar bars” around their porch. Not sure whether this is to keep pets/children in or malefactors out, but the new fencing certainly presents an odd appearance.

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Sweet and Sour Cherries

Although this “trousseau” recipe is specifically for cherries, I use the basic recipe to make a delicious dressing for any kind of fruit or fruit salad.

Sweet and Sour Cherries

1 pint sour cream
½ cup sugar (I use Demerara)
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups drained canned sweet cherries

Combine sour cream, sugar, and almond extract. Fold in cherries. Chill and serve in compotes.

If you need a dessert in an emergency, it’s hard to get much easier or quicker than this!

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Manicotti-Style Tortillas

The recipe card on which this is typed indicates that it came from Good Housekeeping. Although there are numerous recipes online for “Mexican Manicotti” (most with Tex-Mex ingredients, including, in some cases, corn tortillas), the recipe for “Lazy Boy Manicotti” is probably the most similar to this one. This recipe is a little more labor-intensive than some of the other recipes I’ve shared but not nearly as much trouble as stuffing actual manicotti pasta, and, because it is cooked in the microwave, it’s relatively quick to prepare. It was one of my daughter’s favorite dishes when she was growing up, and when her college dining hall staff asked parents to submit recipes, this is the one I sent (though I’m sure it was never made).

Manicotti-Style Tortillas

1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
½ teaspoon oregano
⅓ cup water
1 pint ricotta cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 egg, beaten
8 6 to 8inch flour tortillas

In a 4-cup measure, stir tomato sauce, oregano, and water. Into 13″ ×9″ baking dish, pour 1 cup sauce. In bowl, stir ricotta cheese, 1½ cups mozzarella cheese, and egg.

In microwave oven, arrange tortillas, separated by damp paper towels, and cook on HI for 1½–2 minutes.

Spread tortillas with ricotta mixture and roll up. Arrange in baking dish and top with remaining sauce. Cover with plastic wrap. Cook on HI 7–8 minutes, rotating dish once. During last 2 minutes, sprinkle with remaining cheese. Makes 8 servings, about 322 calories.

My Notes

  1. For the tomato sauce, oregano, and water, I substitute a jar of prepared spaghetti sauce. I usually use Ragú Chunky, either Mama’s Special Garden Sauce or Super Vegetable Primavera.
  2. Instead of microwaving all the tortillas at once (and wasting paper towels), I do them one at a time, for about 15–20 seconds, spreading and rolling each as I go. This does make it a little more difficult to make the filling come out even, however.
  3. I add fresh or dried chives, parsley, basil, bell pepper, green onions (or anything else green I have on hand) to the cheese mixture. It adds color and spice.
  4. If your microwave oven won’t accommodate a 13″ ×9″ baking dish (mine is nearly 40 years old and is huge, though without a turntable), you could try using a square casserole dish. If, as is likely these days, your oven has a turntable, you may have to disable it.
  5. When serving, I usually don’t try to serve one whole filled tortilla per person. Instead, I cut two in half and serve the two halves, which provides a squarish serving, easier to pick up with a pancake turner.
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Honey Pumpkin Pie

This is another “trousseau” recipe, found in the loose-leaf recipe notebook I created before I was married. I will say at the outset that it is a ridiculously impractical recipe because it calls for a quantity of evaporated milk that is more than a 5-ounce can but less than a 12-ounce one. Fortunately, my husband can use the leftover milk in his tea, and I continue to make this recipe a couple of times a year (Thanksgiving and Christmas) because it’s “traditional.” There are recipes online that have the same name, but none is identical. Interestingly, I have not found another pumpkin pie recipe that includes nutmeg.

Honey Pumpkin Pie

⅓ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup strained honey
2 cups cooked or canned pumpkin
1 cup evaporated milk
2 eggs

Mix sugar, salt, and spices. Stir in honey and pumpkin. Heat milk and add with eggs. Beat well. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes; lower heat to 375° for 35 minutes.

For what it’s worth, this is an easy recipe to double; my daughter has even been known to make four of these at once. I love it because mixing requires no more than a whisk, and I traditionally make our Christmas pie(s) while listening to the NPR broadcast of the “Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols” from King’s College, Cambridge, on Christmas Eve.

A few notes:

  1. I have no idea of the purpose of heating the milk; my mother suggested perhaps this was to give the eggs a head start on setting. I usually do it in the microwave in a glass measure with a microwave thermometer, till just before it comes to a boil.
  2. Although I usually grate my own nutmeg (and the quantity is thus approximate), I’m no purist: I use a prefab Pillsbury pie crust. The pan shown is one of a pair I inherited from my mother; they make a pretty crust really easy!
  3. I’ve made this with both Carnation and store-brand evaporated milk, both high-test and low-fat (maybe even fat-free), and I’ve never had a result that was less than delicious.
  4. I serve it with a spritz of Reddi-Wip and really prefer the consistency of the filling when it’s chilled, but I hate to refrigerate the pie immediately because the crust gets a bit soggy. Of course, if you serve it all at once, to a crowd, that is not an issue!

Obviously, the distinctive feature of this pie is in the name. I can’t swear that the honey makes it any better than a pie made from the recipe on the Libby’s can, but I love it, and it’s a family tradition.

The past few years, the honey I’ve used has made it more distinctive than usual. My father was an enthusiastic supporter of libertarian and conservative causes, and one of these was Morton Blackwell’s Leadership Institute. Apparently Dad was a significant donor, and every Christmas he received a pint jar of “Morton’s Virginia Honey.” I don’t now recall whether I received my supply one jar at a time after Mother’s death in 2002 or (more likely) inherited the entire stash upon Dad’s death in 2007, but I once had half a dozen jars dated 2001–2006. I’ve been working my way backward and am now using the 2001 one. It is of course well known that honey does not spoil (in fact, it is a preservative), and, unlike store-bought honey, this honey never crystallizes. It turns black as tar and perhaps a little bitter, but that just gives the pie more character, and it remains easy to pour and measure. I’ll actually be sorry when I use up this last jar.

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