Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January Joy List Update

Monthly I will be posting my joy list and keeping up with what I did or did not do. The lists are mainly for my benefit so I can look back at the end of the year and see what joys I experienced. I decided from now on I will also list unexpected and unanticipated joys that I can look back over the year and appreciate again.

1. Expand my horizons

a. Listen to at least one different genre of music every day (I listen to a lot of jazz and sometimes forget there are other types of music)
I listened to a lot of music daily from each day's genre, but am listing my favorites from each day. This has been something very good that I have done for myself. It has forced me to listen to things far beyond my normal and I am finding some new favorites I never knew existed. (I am also finding some genres I don't care to listen to again, but I guess that was to be expected)

Week 1: Funk "Watermelon Man"  Telugu "Nuvvele, Nuvvele"  Russian Folk "The BoatyrSpiritual "Bobby McFerrin Psalm 23"  Baroque "Melancholy Galliard"  Bando "Seis Pies"  Tuvan Throat  "The Reindeer Herder's Song"

Week 2: Salsa "Candela"   RagTime "Sunflower Slow Drag"  Rindik "Angkulngen"  Romantic Period Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" R&B "Me and Mrs. Jones American Patriotic "The Washington Post March"

Week3: Opera Aria Turadot's "Nessum Dorma" Gambian Kora Music "Jula Jerkere" Blue Grass "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" Motown  "Sir Duke" Celtic "Down By the Salley Gardens" ,Zyedyco "Cricket Leg "Zyedeco"  Chaabi "Ya Rayah"

Week 4: Kleyzmorim "Turetskya"  K pop "BBoom BBoom"  Yayue Listened to  this __no favorites cause it all sounds alike  Celtic Punk"Drunken Lullabies", Showtunes "Bring Him Home" Sacred Harp Call me unsophisticated but this was just painful to listen to more than a couple of hours. Doo Wop "Little Bitty Pretty One"

Week5: Kid Tunes "Bananaphone"  Hymn, "Eternal Father, Strong to Save"Greek Bouzouki I will listen to this tomorrow

b. Read a biography (not my favorite thing to read)
A Girl Called Renee

c. Try one new recipe per week.

Chicken cutlets  thumbs up
Ham, potato and corn chowder thumbs up
Hot Chicken Salad on Hoecakes so-so
Mexican Drunken Bean Soup 2 thumbs up
Chicken Florentine with Parmesan Sauce thumbs up

d. Try a new beverage (adult or otherwise) each week.
Vanilla Chai New to me. Not substantially different from regular chai.
Licorice tea Really nice and I don't care for licorice at all! It is nice, light and very clean tasting. It is also supposedly very good for us. I will start keeping this all the time.
Som Soda Turmeric From Pok Pok in Portland. I have eaten there several times and love their food, so when I saw this (at The Pig in Birmingham, no less) I thought I would give it a try. It has an earthy taste at first sip then it has a sharp carbonated vinegary taste and finally becomes sweet as it spreads over the mouth. Really good but too expensive to buy except on a very rare occasion. If I were not already a Pok Pok fan I would never have bought it in the first place.
Faygo Rock and Rye Soda  This was a very different tasting drink. I do not normally drink sugar sweetened sodas and this one was very very sweet. It seems to have a blended fruit flavor but has high notes of cherry and an herbal undertone I can't identify. It is almost like a jacked up Dr. Pepper. Won't drink it again.

e. Learn some obscure or arcane fact each week
Hares are born with fur and sight, rabbits are born naked and blind.
Cap’n Crunch’s full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch.
Nutella was invented during WWII, when an Italian pastry maker mixed ground hazelnuts into chocolate to expand the volume of his chocolate rations
Carly Simon's dad co-founded  Simon and Schuster.  
In the 1980s, Pablo Escobar's Medellin Cartel was spending $2,500 a month on rubber bands just to hold all their cash.

2. Be present around friends and family more. Really listen to what they are saying.
I really did try and think perhaps I listened a little better. Maybe not though!

3. Learn a new(to me) song on the piano.
Didn't happen

4. Have guests for dinner at least once.
Some friends of Son3 were traveling from the west coast and needed a place to stay for a couple of nights, so I guess we had guests for dinner and every other meal for a couple of days. I also had overnight guests during our fake ice storm days.

5. Contact some long neglected friend. (Ouch, it hurts to write that.)
Made plans to have lunch with Martha. Haven't seen her for a couple of years

6. Meet someone new.
I had never met one of Son3's friend's brother until he was at my front door. I enjoyed getting to know him and Lake (whom I had met a couple of times before but barely knew) better. 

7. Make something for Christmas next year. (Can be a gift or can be a craft)
I bought some really cool 90 percent off Christmas cards. Can I count that? At the last minute I made some gift tags for Christmas

8. Volunteer somewhere.
Didn't happen

9. Do at least one thing for someone expecting nothing in return. (anonymous would be best)
Took soup and fantastic dessert to a friend following her surgery. Didn't get to do it anonymously though.

10. Make an effort at a more spiritual beginning to my day.
Trying__somedays were successful, some not so much.

11. Get rid of 31 items (one for each day of the month).
I found 30 thing just from my bedroom. I wound up with a nice GW donation of way more than 31 items. 

12. Anytime, when  possible, choose happiness.
It is amazing how choosing happiness really does change everything, even if circumstances remain the same.

13. Watch a documentary.
Watched a documentary about Montbatten's quest to gain power after the marriage of QE2 and Prince Phillip.

14. Go to a movie, with or without popcorn!
Flu outbreak changed my plans for this. 

15. Take the time to watch both a sunset and a moon rise.
Moon rises are easy, I just have to walk out the front door and look to the right any clear night.  Sunrise? Is that the thing most people see a couple of hours after I go to bed at night? 

16. Go to a play or concert
Kinky Boots

17. Take Mom somewhere out of the ordinary just for fun.
Took her to hear a storyteller. Took her to a Choral program

18, Watch the NCAA college football Championship game on TV
Yep watched it and loved it. Roll Tide Roll

19. Have Mom over to eat at least 3 times.
Done and more.

I did add a few extra things as the month progressed, but that didn't mean I necessarily did them.(see number 14)

Now on to February's joys.

Monday, January 29, 2018

January Christmas Thing

I had decided to make something Christmasish every month this year, and true to my nature the end of the month was approaching and nothing was done. I had decided I was going to count the super cheap Christmas wrap and cards I got last week as my Christmas prep, even though it was not what I had in mind when I said "make". I am not sure "make" and "buy something really cheap" are synonymous and I was feeling guilty and at the same time feeling like I did not want to go to the store or buy any supplies. Enter  Thrifty Mom in Boise who blogged about making gift tags for Christmas. Card stock__check, bits of Christmas designed craft papers__uh none. But I did have lots of pens and Sharpies so it was possible to do a bastardized version. Thank you for your inspiration.

I had a plastic template for the shape I liked so I traced it on card stock, cut it with scissors and began doing some dotting and striping and drawing and came up with several designs that will work. The ones pictured below are just prototypes since I obviously do not call my offspring Son1, Son2, and Son3, and I did not take the time or care doing them. The real ones look much better but I went ahead and have their names printed on them and because I never use their real names in the blog, I am not starting today.

I made 2 for each person I normally give gifts to and will add more later. Right now I have 20 and they are in an envelope ready for the end of the year. (At the rate January flew by December will be here before I know it anyway) I did not punch holes in mine. Most of the packages I wrap are flat packages and I will just use double faced tape to affix the tags to the gifts. If I decide I had rather tie them on later I will use my smallest hole punch and use very thin ribbon as the tie.

So barely under the wire I got something ready for Christmas 2018 and actually kept my commitment to myself at least for the first month of the year. February is still up in the air though!

Friday, January 26, 2018

New Recipe Week3

Tonight I was in the mood for soup. The day was beautiful and really pleasant, but the night was still pretty chilly. Additionally a good friend had knee replacement surgery and I knew I could take soup to her so she could easily warm it up whenever she felt like eating it. I looked through various sites for soup with pinto beans, since I had some soaking and this one kept coming up again and again. I decided to take what I thought would be the best of several recipes and mesh it into one. I had everything on hand (at least I thought I did) and decided why not, because I did not want to go back out to the store. Turns out I did not have everything, but I can usually punt pretty easily.

Mexican Drunken Bean Soup

1 lb bag of dried pinto beans, cooked
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic minced
2 jalapenos, ribbed and seeded then minced
1 large can diced tomatoes (2 regular cans) undrained
1 jar salsa verde
3-4 cups vegetable broth (chicken would be fine but I had veggie on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 lb cooked crispy bacon (I did not have any so I used smoked sausage though ham or cooked diced chicken would work equally well)
1 bottle Mexican beer (Dos Equis)
cilantro leaves and tortilla chips for garnish

Cook and season the pinto beans (until they are soft)
In a Dutch oven heat the olive oil and cook the onions until they are wilted but not brown, add the jalapenos and garlic and cook about 45 seconds, them pour the diced tomatoes and salsa verde in. Add the veggie broth and a decent shake of salt and pepper. I had no bacon so I used smoked sausage cut into coins and it worked perfectly fine. Add the beans and let it all hang out on a medium low heat for about 45 minutes. Add the beer and turn the heat to high. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn it down and cook for about 5 more minutes (The alcohol will burn off leaving that delicious yeasty flavor of the beer. If you don't have Dos Equis use any regular beer but stay away from those that are hops heavy) Serve with a few cilantro leaves and something crunchy like tortilla chips, crackers or use leftover Fritos like we did.

This soup was unbelievably delicious. I took 4 big servings to my friend, we had 4 people at our house for dinner, 2 of the 4 had seconds and there was enough left over for my lunch later in the week. 2 big thumbs up from everyone. This one is a keeper!

What I will do different next time? I will probably toss on a couple of shredded zucchini and possibly some shredded cabbage just for the vegetable content and add another jalapeno (cause we like heat) , but it was almost perfect as it was. If you don't like hot stuff use mild salsa verde and leave out the jalapenos. My mouth is watering again just typing this and remembering the taste.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Recipe 3 Hot Chicken Salad on Hoe Cakes

I am not only trying new to me recipes, but I am also trying to use up a lot of the bits and pieces I have in the freezer, and trying my best to shop first from home. Consequently, we are having some interesting, possibly less than stellar meals. This weeks new recipe is from a blog I found called Retro Housewife. She has tons of recipes from the 40's-60's and very few of them require exotic ingredients. I had cooked boneless skinless chicken thighs in the freezer, and nearly everything else The only thing I had to purchase for the hot chicken salad was celery and it was just because I was out of it anyway. I have literally copied and pasted her recipe. I don't feel too bad about doing it since she credits it to "Generic Housewife Betty 1954".  At the end of the recipe I will tell you what changes I made.

Hot Chicken Salad in Corn Meal Tulip Cups

Chicken Salad:
3 cups cut-up cooked chicken
2 cups chopped celery
½ cup chopped blanched almonds
1/3 cup chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons chopped pimiento
2 tablespoons minced onion
¼ teaspoon curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup grated Swiss cheese
Combine ingredients for Chicken Salad.

Tulip Cups

3 cups sifted enriched flour
1 cup enriched corn meal
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup shortening
2/3 cup water
Preparation Instructions
 For tulip cups, sift together dry ingredients. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add water a little at a time, until dough will just hold together. Turn out on lightly floured board and knead gently a few seconds. Divide dough in half; roll each half out to form a 10 x 15 inch rectangle, Cut into six 5-inch squares. Place squares in custard cups shaping dough against the sides of the cups and allowing corners to hang over. Fill each pastry-lined cup with chicken salad; place cups on cookie sheet and bake in hot oven (400° F.) 25 to 30 minutes. Serve hot. Makes 12 tarts.

First I will tell you I had no intention of making the corn meal tulip cups. I figured the hot chicken salad could bake perfectly well in the oven in a baking dish (it did), cornbread pancakes would be a perfectly acceptable delivery item (they were) and I was just not willing to put that much time into something that was just going to be a simple supper. (So, I didn't)

I am sure it would be adorable and probably taste very good so if it floats your boat to make them by all means, have at it. Just don't judge me for believing a recipe is just a suggestion for me to play with.

I made the chicken salad recipe more or less, except for a main dish where measurements are not critical I eyeballed the ingredients. I know I was close but not exact. Though I had almonds, mine are raw and I did not want to toast them and skin them, so I left 'em out. I did the same with the pimento even though I had a jar in the pantry. I have 3 packages of cheddar cheese left from the holidays and I had rather make pimento cheese than have the pop of red in the chicken dish. I also added about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and the zest of 1/2 of a lemon to the chicken. When I read the recipe it just sounded to me like it needed something bright to compliment the earthiness of the curry powder. I also did not mix the cheese with the salad mix. I had about 1/4 lb of jarlsberg cheese which I grated and sprinkled over the top of the chicken salad once it was partially baked.

Mix all the chicken stuff except for the cheese. Put into an 8x8 oven safe pan and bake at 350 until it is hot and the celery has softened (about 30 minutes) Throw the cheese on top and return to the oven until it melts. Serve on top of hoe cakes.

You can call me out on this if you wish. I had a package of corn bread mix in the pantry (one of those that only needs water added) and I essentially made cornbread pancakes on a stove top griddle. Yes it is a cheat and I should feel ashamed but it was just dinner and just for the two of us, so I felt no shame at all. I made the pancakes, put them on a small breakfast plate, scooped out the hot salad and called it done. I meant to serve it with broccoli, but forgot to cook it so we had a bowl of bagged salad on the side instead.

The verdict: It was tasty, uninspiring, and a good way to use some of the frozen chicken. I might or might not make it again. There was nothing objectionable to it, it had enough flavor (and yes it definitely needed the pop of citrus). There was just no wow to it and we do tend to eat more extreme flavors than this, but it really was perfectly fine. Maybe if I had made the bloomin' tulip cups and they were prettier we would not have noticed how basic it really was.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Music is Best Shared

I have been trying to expand my horizons this month and one of the things I have been doing is listening to types of music I generally don't listen to. I am a huge jazz fan and tend to listen to it All.
Of. The. Time.  I would not call myself in a jazz rut since I do love it, but there is nothing wrong with listening to different sounds. Each day I am listening to a different genre (well at least in the mornings I am, but confess I generally go back to jazz in the evenings) and today is my R & B day.  I started with a little Luther Vandross, then some Barry White and of course some Aretha, but then I had to play my favorite R&B song over and over and over.

I make mixed CD's for my car (yeah I don't have Mp3 capabilities in my car and still have to rely on "Old School" methods, even though I am old enough to remember 8 track tapes and actually had a car once that had only an AM radio) This summer Son3 was here visiting with GF3 and we were driving to a family reunion with the Cd player on. Billy Paul's "Me and Mrs. Jones" came on and Son3 asked me my inspiration in including it on the disc, which was an extremely diverse compilation of tunes.
I told him I thought it was one of the most musically beautiful songs of the modern age. I love the instrumentation, the vocals, the spacing__in fact, I think the song is nearly a perfect piece of music. Amazingly, since this summer, Son3 calls me with that song playing in the background all the time.  He was not terribly familiar with it and GF3 had never heard it before but they both love it and listen to it all the time now. Since they are both musicians they play various background parts while the song is playing.  I love that I could sneak an "earworm" into their lives.

Incidentally there are 2 more songs on the Cd that they are listening to regularly, not because they are perfect songs but just because they are fun.  I am including them also.

                 I don't know why I like this one so much except the energy of it makes me happy.

                                          Grand Funk Railroad "Foot Stompin Music"

This one I love because of the last verse. When it plays in the car everyone sings along at the top of their lungs. Even people who don't know the song can find some places to easily sing along.

                                David Allen Coe "You Never Even Called Me by My Name"

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Recipe 2

I had about a cup and a half of scrappy ham leftover from Christmas that had been stuffed in a plastic bag and set in the freezer. I also had 8 less than stellar small potatoes so I knew I wanted to make something from them. I am trying had to spend little this January, reduce our food storage inventory and keep food waste to a minimum.
I had no idea what I would come up with and then I saw this recipe. Believe it or not I have never made chowder before. I am not a thick soup lover, preferring broth based soups and since I am the one who does the cooking my preferences tends to rule. But tonight I had all the ingredients handy, including a couple of ribs of almost wilted celery that had to be used tonight, so the die was cast and, well, chowder! What was the worst that could happen? I wouldn't like it so TheHub would have to eat it all for various meals? It was worth the gamble.

Ham and potato chowder

1 1/2 cup ham bits and pieces, chopped fine
8 smallish potatoes, peeled and diced(ish)
1/2 onion chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 quartish broth (I had simmered the ham bone so I used ham broth. Chicken  or veggie broth would work as well)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 small can drained whole kernel corn
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste (I used little salt and a lot of pepper)
chopped cooked bacon for garnish

Chop the ham, dice the potatoes and set aside. Put the onion, celery and butter in a large pan and wilt the veggies. Add the flour and stir like a crazy woman until the flour is blended with the butter and  it turns a light brown color. (Beige really) Immediately add the broth, stir well, stir well some morel and toss in the potatoes and ham. Cook until the potatoes are tender, adding a little more water or broth if necessary. Add the milk and the heavy cream along with the drained corn, parsley and salt and pepper. Cook through until everything is blended, semi thick and hot. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle crumbled bacon in the center of the soup.

Why have I never eaten this before? I don't know what I have had against chowder all my life, because this stuff was pretty darn good. I told TheHub next time I would make it without the corn because I thought it added nothing to the soup or the flavor. TheHub disagreed totally. He loved it.

Score, using leftovers and less than perfect veggies! And to think it only took me this many decades to decide chowder was pretty good after all. (In all fairness the only chowder I have ever eaten is Campbell's condensed clam chowder and it is just not good. I can't believe I based my disdain for chowder on the condensed stuff, but I did.)

Monday, January 8, 2018

Obnoxious Me, Sorry Almost

                               It's late and my heart rate has just returned to normal.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

And the First New Recipe Is___

I have decided to try 52 new to me/us recipes this year, which will mean an average of one a week. I know it seems like a lot, but even a new salad dressing recipe is a recipe, so it is pretty doable, especially if I don't get hung up on the actual 7 day week and am willing to fudge a little if I try 2 different recipes only 6 days apart. Like Jane at Crabapple Landing said today, Life is Messy, and I am not going to strangle myself with self imposed rules.

Shortly before Christmas I bought 3 large packs of boneless skinless chicken things and then promptly forgot about them. The result was me having to cook all of them at once so now I have 3 large packs of cooked boneless chicken. I froze some and have used about half of it for meals recently, chicken pot pie, chicken noodle soup, and tonight, chicken croquettes. I have never made them in my life and nothing beats a recipe that uses what I need to use,  plus it is brand new to me. Win all the way around!

3 boneless chicken thighs, minced
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/3 cup mayo
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 egg
1/2 small onion minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dried parsley
additional bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix well the chicken, bread crumbs, mayo, dijon mustard, egg, onion and seasonings in a bowl. Form into thin patties and dredge in additional bread crumbs.

Heat oil in a shallow non stick pan , put the croquettes in and cook until brown on one side. Flip them over and brown on the other side. Serve piping hot.

I made a sauce of a white wine/white wine vinegar reduction, butter and a little milk (because I had no cream.  Don't use milk, the vinegar causes it to curdle.  Use cream instead)

1/4 cup white wine. 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar. Heat and reduce by half. Cool briefly and add 1 tablespoon heavy cream. Slowly stir in 3 tablespoons butter. Serve over the croquettes add a heavy sprinkle of parsley.

This was very tasty and a great way to use cooked chicken, but the sauce is what really amped the flavor. TheHub really enjoyed it. I may or may not make it again cause it is heavy on the fats which in turn adds more fat to me!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Return of the Joy

I used to post a monthly joy list which I really enjoyed. I would think of things that I believed would give me joy throughout the month, list them and systematically either do them or move them to the next month. It was never intended to be a task list, just things I thought would bring me joy during the month. I have missed it and honestly I think having it made me focus on joy more often, so I am beginning it again this year. I might keep it up or I might not, but at least this month I am going to post it once again.

These are in no particular order and of no importance, they are just things to being joy to my everyday life.

1. Expand my horizons
a. Listen to at least one different genre of music every day (I listen to a lot of jazz)
b. Read at least one biography this month (I never chose those to read)
c. Try one new recipe per week.
d. Try a new beverage (adult or otherwise) each week.
e. Learn some obscure or arcane fact each week

2. Be present around friends and family more. Really listen to what they are saying.

3. Learn a new(to me) song on the piano.

4. Have guests for dinner at least once.

5. Contact some long neglected friend. (Ouch, it hurts to write that.)

6. Meet someone new.

7. Make something for Christmas next year. (Can be a gift or can be a craft)

8. Volunteer somewhere.

9. Do at least one thing for someone expecting nothing in return. (anonymous would be best)

10. Make an effort at a more spiritual beginning to my day.

11. Get rid of 31 items (one for each day of the month).

12. Anytime, when  possible, choose happiness.

13. Watch a documentary.

14. Go to a movie, with or without popcorn!

15. Take the time to watch both a sunset and a moon rise.

There may be more and I might add to the list as I think of more, but this is enough for right now. Hope you fill your month with some joy also.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Show of Hands Please

Today is New Year's Day and we sill start the new year like we do every year, with a meal of ham, black eyed peas cooked with hog jowl, collard greens and cornbread. It is supposed to be a lucky meal and I suppose I would eat it even if I did not like all the components, but I am a traditionally raised southern gal and really do like all of it. On New Year's we call it our good luck meal, other days we just call it dinner.

How many of you have a traditional meal to usher in a new year and if you don't mind share what it is.

Also do any of you know the traditions origins? Mine is just because I grew up with it.

This is not a photo of our actual meal. I won't be cooking it until later this evening so this is just a random picture, but it looks much the same minus the corn bread. Oh and for  the sake of disclosure our iced tea will be sweet but our corn bread won't!