Monday, January 25, 2021

Three Hundred Eighteen Days…and Counting

…continuing with our 'exciting' saga during the Covid-19 pandemic.  The good news is that I’m on a coronavirus vaccine wait list now!  The bad news is that I’m 2,121st in line and the county doesn’t know when they’ll be getting their next shipment of vaccine.  It certainly won’t be 2,000 + doses when it does arrive.  In addition, due to Laurie’s ‘youth’, she isn’t eligible to line up for a shot yet.

Our homebound life continues…

Starting out on a positive note, Laurie recently snapped this photo of a lovely rainbow over Tellico Lake.  Another win so far this winter is the fact that we’ve only had one snowfall to date for a total of 2.5 inches.  Also, warmer weather than usual is predicted for the next week to 10 days!  This is our favorite type of winter, especially after so many years in Chicagoland. 

We have cereal for breakfast a couple of times a week.  Most of the time its cold cereal with Laurie preferring multi-grain Cheerios with dried cranberries or fresh blueberries.  I like to mix my cereal…the same Cheerios and fruit but with Special K’s oat flakes added.

However in this case, Laurie made up a batch of Quaker Oats.  Oatmeal is one of our ‘go to’ comfort foods, especially in the winter.  We add butter, fruit and brown sugar (Splenda is our preference), with half and half milk.  Very filling and satisfying too…

Cindy’s Kitchen White Cheddar Vinaigrette with green onion and buttermilk is Laurie’s new favorite salad dressing.  We found it at Fresh Market in Farragut Tennessee.  Since then I’ve also purchased Cindy’s Creamy Blue Cheese dressing.  Both dressings/dips are pure quality!

Cindy’s Kitchen offers 32 different 11 oz. salad dressings/dips, 16 small batch dips and 48 16 oz. dressings/marinades as well as several other products.  To learn more and to locate a store near you that carries these products, go to

If you regularly read my blog, you are well aware that the pandemic has not inspired us to be creative in the kitchen, be it via baking or creating wonderful new culinary treats for our meals.  Usually we prepare something easy and simple or we add in prepared food items from the grocery store.

However, in this instance Laurie’s Sister Bonnie sent her a pasta recipe that we agreed could be worth the effort.  It is called Cacio E Pepe.  The ingredients are simple enough…tonnarelli or spaghetti noodles, pecorino Romano cheese, pepper, olive oil, butter, salt and reserved pasta water.

The ‘sauce’ as shown above was made with 3 tablespoons of Amish butter, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and freshly cracked pepper, all heated until the pepper ‘blooms’.  Later, 1 cup of reserved pasta water is whisked into the sauce.  About 3 minutes after this was completed, the cheese was whisked into the sauce a little at a time until the mixture is glossy smooth.  Finally, blend in the noodles with the finished sauce.

This was the finished product…our Cacio E Pepe entrée!  It was very good indeed… If you like pasta and you like Romano cheese, this dish is for you.  The key is to use high quality Pecorino Romano cheese, extra-virgin olive oil, top-notch butter and freshly cracked pepper.

Although this Italian favorite includes limited ingredients, it does require some careful attention to detail.  Timing is important and the temperatures for blending the ingredients is critical.  It took both of us to get it right.  Our only shortfall was that when served it could have been warmer.  Still, there were no leftovers!

Laurie took this photo of a pair of doves using her deck rail mounted watering hole.  Doves hang around our feeder most of the year.  Although they don’t perch to eat from the feeder, they do clean up whatever tasty morsels fall to the ground from other sloppy eaters…

Tennessee is home to both mourning doves (shown here) and collared doves.  Doves eat between 12 – 20% of their body weight every day.  They are part of the pigeon family of birds.  The oldest known mourning dove was 30 years and 4 months old.  With an estimated 350 million mourning doves in the USA, they are the most hunted of all game species.

Laurie took this photo of the sunset against the foothills east of our home across Tellico Lake.  It was a beautiful sight!

We’re always trying for that perfect photo of the Moon.  Some are better than others but here are two of Laurie’s best from recent weeks.

The Moon is 1/4th the diameter of Earth.  Its width is comparable to the width of Australia.  Its total surface area is just slightly less than North and South America combined.  The mass of the Moon is just 1/81 of Earth’s but it is the 5th largest moon in our Solar System.  The Moon’s average distance from Earth is 238,900 miles.  That is equivalent to more than 85 trips from New York City to Los Angeles.

That’s all for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Still Homebound…Week 45!

So as I wrote this entry for my blog site, I noted that this is our 45th week in Covid-19 self-isolation.  Trips to doctor’s offices, the pharmacy, the grocery store, and even picking up take-out food from local restaurants are now considered social outings!

But the pandemic continues as does a nation divided.  It remains to be seen just how effectively our new administration in Washington D.C. can handle either issue, but we can at least hope for better times.  Neither major issue can be effectively addressed overnight, that’s for sure.

So I’m continuing to publish what is ‘real’ to us in our current situation…our home, our yard, its visitors and the food that we consume.

Laurie continues to take photos of our avian visitors.  When our Red-bellied Woodpecker visits our feeder, it is with a bang…with all other birds fleeing.  At over 9 inches long and with a wingspan of between 13 and 16 inches these birds are larger than a Robin and they are the largest birds that actually visit (perch on) our feeder.

Despite the continuing construction of several new homes within a couple of blocks of our home, the deer still wander through our back yard, nibbling as they go.  The only question is just how long their visits will continue as the number of new homes increases.  Apparently, the young deer in the second photo is noshing on the moss that grows in our backyard...

On to some food related photos… Laurie decided to try making up our own chicken wing recipe rather than just taking the easy way out getting takeout from a local restaurant.

As you can see, we’d purchased a large package of wings… We couldn’t find a recipe that we liked so we came up with our own mix of spices, the primary addition being from a package of Jamaican jerk seasoning.  She thoroughly coated the wings before baking them.  They looked great!  I thought that they were pretty darn good but Laurie thought that they were too spicy hot.

For dinner one night, we decided to have chicken cordon bleu.  No, we didn’t put these together ourselves.  They were a purchase from Fresh Market in Farragut Tennessee.  Chicken cordon bleu is made by pounding chicken breasts thin and then wrapping the chicken around a slice of ham and a slice of cheese.  We seasoned and baked these and sided them with some squash plus bread and butter.  

Verdict: Like the meatloaf that we’d tried from Fresh Market and despite Laurie adding seasoning, the chicken cordon bleu was really bland, with no ‘pop’ at all.  So much for pre-prepped dishes from Fresh Market…although we do love shopping there for many other top notch food items and treats.

On another night we reverted to one of Laurie’s childhood favorites…creamed chipped beef on toast!  In this case, this was a Stouffer’s frozen food selection.  The first photo is of my serving prior to the second photo where I ‘completed’ my entrée with Tabasco!  Hey…the green beans were healthy!

So what to do with leftover bland tasting chicken cordon bleu?  The answer was simple…Breakfast!  I sliced the portions up and seasoned them with pepper and a bit of garlic powder.  I then fried/heated the slices in butter in a frying pan.  After all, everything is better with butter.  The coup de grace was the addition of 2 easy over eggs. (Tabasco was added before consumption) The leftover chicken cordon bleu was much more satisfying than the dinner version…

As I said in my last post, we see a lot of robins here at this time of the year.  We’ve had flocks of literally hundreds of them in our yard and in the woods behind and beside our house.  They love our ‘watering hole’ mounted on the deck railing and our boulders with natural rain catching depressions are equally popular!

That’s all for now.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, January 11, 2021

Day 300 – Pandemic Dining Plus

When I began writing this bit for my blogsite, it was an anniversary of sorts, the 300th day of self-isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic.  What a downer of a milestone… As many Americans will testify, our situation could be much worse though!

As of this moment, our small county has reported 4,493 cases of Covid-19 or 1 infection for every 12 residents.  One person has died out of every 1,289 people in the county.  In the State of Tennessee, there has been 1 death for every 921 residents… This is the reason that doing just about anything outside our home is so limited.  Drives in the country and trips to the grocery store or for needed medical appointments are our ‘breaks’ from being completely homebound.   

Laurie continues her efforts to photograph our feathery friends.  In this case she captured this picture of a male Downy Woodpecker.  The ladies don’t have that red patch on their heads.  They are frequent year around visitors to our bird feeder.  These little birds are widely distributed throughout the USA and Canada.  

If you follow my blog you may remember that I bought Laurie a natural wood charcuterie tray for her birthday.  So, one evening in December we put our new purchase to use.  It was loaded with 4 different varieties of Italian salami, a stack of peppered roasted sliced deli chicken and 7 different types of cheese.  It was a simple but enjoyable evening meal…

This may look a bit disgusting but I just don’t like to waste food.  We had a slice of leftover pot pie and a leftover boneless thigh that remained from another meal where we had Laurie’s baked chicken with enriched cream of chicken soup… I just mixed them together and heated them in the microwave.  Of course, after taking the photo I added my Tabasco, making it look even worse but enhancing it for me!

As I went through our photos, I realized that I’d never posted anything about our ‘stay-at-home alone’ Christmas dinner.  We’d purchased a standing beef rib roast from Fresh Market…opting for the choice cut vs. the prime cut.   The price difference was significant enough to take my breath away…  

We ate very well on Christmas Day!  Beef rib roast cooked medium rare plus roasted potatoes, gravy and carrots.  We also had a side salad and some nice bread.  I will say that the next time I buy prime rib roast, I will splurge and open my wallet for the prime cut.  While our meat was good, it lacked the flavor that superior marbling brings with prime beef.  

We did have lots of leftovers and a couple of days later, we had open face hot roast beef sandwiches with gravy for dinner.  I also enjoyed a number of cold roast beef sandwiches.  

On to the more mundane meals… In this case, we had a lone remaining English muffin and what was left of the chili that Laurie had made earlier.  So I lightly toasted and buttered the English muffin, and then, using the microwave, I melted shredded Tillamook sharp cheddar cheese on both halves. Then I poured the remaining chili over the muffin halves and topped the whole thing with a couple of easy-over eggs.  An excellent breakfast!

On another morning I made my patented scrambled cheese eggs for breakfast.  I used 3 eggs, 3 different types of cheese, a fork full of cream cheese, a squirt of half and half milk, lots of pepper and a bit of onion powder.  I also fried up the remaining potatoes from our Christmas dinner and warmed up a couple of slices of leftover bacon.

We toasted and buttered Wolferman’s English Muffins, topped them with half strips of bacon and covered them with the cheesy scrambled eggs!  It was a great breakfast!

We’re always looking for prepared appetizers or entrees to try…something that we rarely did pre-pandemic.  In this case we decided to buy a box of Quality Foods garlic sriracha, Applewood bacon wrapped shrimp as an appetizer.  In actuality we ended up having these shrimp for dinner with a salad.  They were quite tasty…probably a 7 out of 10.  Even better, instead of the 12 shrimp per box as it is labeled, this box contained 13 shrimp!

I started with a bird in our yard and I’m ending this post with another one.  Laurie took this photo of a cold looking robin perched on a branch of our big old oak tree right after our 2.5 inch ‘snow storm’.  In the winter robins flee south from Canada and Alaska as well as from along the most northerly edge of the 48 states.  They tend to stop and spend the winter wherever they can find enough food…and we see more robins in the winter here in East Tennessee than we do any other time of the year.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

More and More Food at Home

Yes, once again my post is all about food!  Why?  It all comes down to 'how busy' we've been.  There was absolutely nothing on our calendar all of last week… That means that food consumed at home continues to be my primary blogger topic, which should prove more challenging due to the fact that we’re now cutting back on consumption following the holidays. 

Hopefully, you’ll see something good to eat among the following options!

Stepping back a few weeks, one evening Laurie breaded and baked a couple of boneless pork chops for dinner.  She breads them the way we like them…lots of spices and some ‘heat’ too!  As you can see we sided the pork chops with Uncle Ben’s cheesy rice and green beans.

Then we ordered another take-out meal, this time from Z Fish House in Loudon Tennessee.  This was Laurie’s fried shrimp dinner, the large shrimp sided with seasoned French fries and corn muffins.  The shrimp were excellent, the fries were OK and we both liked the corn muffins.

Instead of fried shrimp, I chose the fried catfish dinner.  I also had the corn muffins and seasoned French fries but also added a couple of decent hush puppies.  As usual, the fried catfish were great!

So…one evening I called Little Italy, a restaurant in Loudon County adjacent to Tellico Village.  We hadn’t had breakfast there in months but we think that Little Italy serves the best sausage gravy we’ve had in a long, long time.  So I ordered a quart of sausage gravy and 8 biscuits…

If you follow my blog, I’m guessing that you can readily determine which breakfast shown above belongs to Laurie and which one belongs to yours truly.  Love that Tabasco and why wouldn’t you just top the biscuits and gravy with the over-easy fried eggs?!

About once a year, Laurie whips up a big pot of her famous chili.  Her chili is way too spicy for most folks.  In addition to a couple different varieties of beans, it’s loaded with ground beef and spicy sausage.  Laurie likes hers with crackers and I like mine straight up with a slice or two of buttered bread on the side.

As you may know by now, I don’t like to waste food.  I had some leftover seasoned French fries from Z Fish House and I had leftover chili.  I heated the French fries in a frying pan with butter and added the chili to the mix.  Then I topped that mixture with a couple of over-easy eggs.  Another satisfying breakfast!

Continuing with our theme of keeping most of our meals simple ‘prep wise’, one morning Laurie baked some store bought biscuits and we just slathered them with Amish butter and jam…

Almost equally simple was this meat loaf dinner… The ready to bake meat loaf came from Fresh Market as did the asparagus and the bread.  The meat loaf was just OK as it lacked any discernable seasoning.  It was very bland.  I love asparagus!  From now on we're sticking with Laurie's meat loaf...

Breakfast can’t get much simpler than this one.  Thaw Jimmy Dean’s sausage, egg and cheese biscuits the night before, zap them in the microwave for 50 seconds, add juice, and your 295th day in Covid-19 self-isolation is off to a great start. 

FYI, Loudon County Tennessee has started giving out the Covid-19 vaccine to old folks like me.  Communications are a problem though.  The County Mayor wasn’t aware that the effort had started, they are already out of the vaccine and the phone lines that are to be used for appointments have crashed.  It’s going to be a long drawn out process!

That’s about it for now.  In my next post…probably a week from now…the primary topic will once again be food.  However, I will try to break it up with local scenery, birds or other critters.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave