Saturday, April 28, 2018

Communication Woes

Remember this quote from the movie  Cool Hand Luke? " What we've got here is a failure to communicate". I felt like that this week.

Mom had an early doctor's appointment Thursday morning.  Normally this is not a big deal, but this particular morning it was raining so hard it felt like someone had opened full force faucets (say that 10 times really fast) in the sky.  I had a ginormous umbrella and still got soaked walking the 30 feet to the car.

Because I am a kind person (but not sweet, as I have repeatedly been told) I called Mom right before turning onto her street to tell her to meet me at her basement garage door.  I could turn around in her driveway, pick her up at the door, knowing she would only have about a foot to navigate in the rain. I pulled into the drive and saw her standing in the garage doorway wearing her decades old mauve hooded raincoat, with a bewildered look peeking through the fabric surrounding her face.

After maneuvering the car so she had mere inches to walk through the rain, but I noticed she was making no attempt to get into my car.  I rolled down the window and saw More confusion.  She yelled through the pounding rain that she didn't know how to close the door.

Mom has a garage door opener and I truly don't know if she had ever exited and closed it unless she was in her car, which has the remote affixed to her driver's side visor. I yelled through the window, " Just press the black button mounted on the wall by the door."

She did as instructed and I watched the garage door close with her inside the basement. Silly me! I had neglected to mention if she wanted to close the door and get in the car it would not work very well unless she actually exited the garage immediately after pushing the button. I guess I am just stupid like that.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

New Recipe: Week 16

Over the weekend we drove to Atlanta for lunch. Son3 was there along with some friends. We see him very seldom now, so we thought it would be a good to spend a couple of hours with him. Since they all live in NYC and can't get the good stuff there, the consensus was meeting at a BBQ joint.  We met at Fox's Bbq on Dekalb close to Little Five Points. If you are headed to Atlanta it is a tasty place to eat, but I would advise you to go at an off hour. The place is crowded and there is little parking. Very little parking! You know you are at a popular place when lunchtime on Saturday requires an off duty police officer who is hired to direct traffic OUT of the meager lot. I actually think he is there mainly to tell people where the offsite parking is. (about 2 blocks away)

There were nine of us for lunch and luckily our table was in a small private alcove off the main restaurant. First we ordered several appetizers for the table. (Fried dill pickles, burnt ends of smoked pork belly, and some tater tot concoction that consisted of tots drizzled in Brunswick stew, onions, peppers and cheese than topped with more tots and cheese)

Next came the main meals and except for me it was a parade of meat. I was not interested in eating bbq that early in the day so I opted for a grilled pimento cheese sandwich. Instead the usual slathered in butter and cooked on a flat top sandwich, the bread was lightly oiled and the sandwich was grilled atop a hickory grill. It had a wonderful wood fired smoke taste to it and almost makes me want to build a small version of a wood fired pizza oven in the back yard to have the same results at home. Notice I said almost!

Since the servings were copious and so many different dishes were ordered there was some food swapping and sampling among us. TheHub and I agreed the bbq itself was not the best we have ever eaten even though it was very good. We had bites of about 15 different items though, and there was not a single one that was not  extremely tasty. It is very hard for any restaurant to have dishes that are uniformly good and they hit the nail on the head with everything we tried. We will go back.

CJ, the dude sitting to my right was an Army Brat and from everywhere. He was thrilled to be back in the south for the weekend, and since he had lived in various southern locations he knew how to order. A couple or them, originally from the NYC area had a hard time wrapping their minds around the fact that mac and cheese was on the veggie plate options. For those of you who do not understand it, mac and cheese is decidedly part of a veggie plate in any decent place in the south which offers vegetable plate as an entree. For his "veggies" he chose mac and cheese and a "Frito casserole".  Now I grew up eating mac and cheese but I had never in my life heard of a Frito casserole. Hats off to Fox's with the service visual. His bbq basket came with his bowl of mac and cheese and a snack size Frito's bag  filled with the casserole. We were all impressed with the presentation!

I did take a peek inside the bag but did not taste it, even after CJ said it took him back to when he was a kid, and did offer me a bite. Since he seemed to enjoy it so much I figured it was worth googling to see if I could find a recipe for some home experimentation. Bingo!

                                                      Frito Casserole

1 regular size bag Fritos
1 onion, chopped
1 lb. ground chuck
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can Mexicorn, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 4 oz. can chili peppers drained
1 can red enchilada sauce
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I did not use this cause I did not have a can on hand and was not about to go shopping for some)
salt and pepper to taste (I only added pepper)
2 cups Colby jack cheese, grated (I used about 1/2 cup of cheddar)
Sour cream for garnish

Brown the onions and ground beef until the beef loses its color. Toss in the garlic and cook until it is wilted. Throw in the remaining ingredients except for the Fritos and cheese. Heat and stir well to incorporate everything.

Sprinkle a thin layer of Fritos in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Cover with the meat mixture, then top with cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven until everything is bubbly.(About 10 minutes)  Remove from the oven. Put additional Fritos on each plate and spoon the casserole over them then add a dollop of sour cream. Enjoy.

When we were talking about having this, TheHub said he refused to eat it unless it was served in a cute little Frito bag. Now I was not about to buy individual serving bags of Fritos, especially since we buy Fritos only a couple of times a year for him to eat while watching a ball game, Silly boy!  He should know better than to try and out smart aleck a professional smart ass.

I did a few things different other than omitting the cream of mushroom soup. I sliced a medium zucchini into thin slices and tossed it in the pan when browning the beef. I also added a sliced orange bell pepper at the same time. I mainly wanted to add additional veggies to the meal. I did not put the cheese on top of the meat mix and put it in the oven. It was just the two of us and we did not care if it was pretty or not, plus the Frito bag held the heat and the cheese had melted by the time we put it on our plates.  I added some thyme, oregano, a dash of cayenne and some cumin because I like intense flavors and the recipe sounded milder than I prefer.

Neither of us had ever had it so we were not drawn into some nostalgic place, but we agreed it was tasty. I think a family with kids would probably love it because it seems to be more kiddie fare than adult food. Still it was a nice experiment, perfectly fine tasting and easy to make. Will I make it again ? Maybe, especially if we ever have leftover Fritos.  If I do make it again I will add additional spices to it and more vegetables. Grated carrots and some summer squash would be good additions.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

New Recipe Week 15

This week I found 7 lemons in my crisper drawer that had to be juiced immediately. Normally I just freeze any excess juice and use it whenever I am making something that calls for the juice of a fresh lemon. I figure if I juiced it and froze it, it is close enough to fresh. But today I had about a cup of lemon juice which was just too much to freeze (Plus I did not have an empty ice cube tray to freeze single portions of the juice)

Lemon curd is not new to me, but I have always made it by a recipe that called for only lemon  juice, egg yolks, salt, sugar, butter and lemon zest. I was not in the mood to use that many yolks (takes about 8) plus the lemons were not in good enough shape for zesting. I found a recipe using just 4 eggs (2 yolks, 2 whole eggs) and no zest. It promised to be a quick and easy curd recipe so I tried it.

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
pinch of salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Before beginning I strained the lemon juice to remove any pulp or seeds then measured 1/2 cup of nice clear fresh lemon juice into my saucepan. Add the sugar and pinch of salt. Stir to combine. Add the egg yolks and whole eggs and using a whisk, stir and stir until the mix is as smooth as possible. Add the cubed butter and cook on low heat whisking continually until the butter is completely melted and incorporated into the mixture. Increase the heat to medium and cook and whisk until the curd reaches a consistency almost like jelly. Remove from the heat and strain through a medium strainer. Unfortunately when using the whole egg a little of the white will cook and coagulate into little bits. After you strain using the medium strainer, strain again using a fine mesh strainer, into a glass container with an airtight cover. Store in the refrigerator up to a week.

Years ago I bought some glasses with plastic fitted lids from Horchow's. They called them French Jelly Jars (sounds so continental doesn't it) and I loved them dearly. Over the years the covers split and the glasses were nicked from almost constant use. A few years ago I saw them in a Crate and Barrel catalogue and was thrilled, then dismayed that my beloved French Jelly Jars had been demoted to working glasses?  WTH! I paid a premium for French Jelly Jars and now I can buy a dozen working glasses (the same thing) for 20 bucks. So my curd, which is really French Jelly Jar worthy, now lives in a working glass.

Most likely I will make a sponge cake and serve it plain with a dollop of the lemon curd, but you can also use it as a toast spread, as a filling for a layer cake, or a filling in tart shells. It was quick and easy and I will make it again when I have citrus that needs to be used right away. I wonder how tangerine curd would taste?  I have a few that have not been eaten yet and I might need to punt later in the week.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

New Recipe for Week Whatever (I lost count and am too lazy to look)

Green Chili Cobbler

When I cleaned out the junk drawer in the kitchen I kept hearing a strange noise indicating either a magazine or piece of paper was stuck between the drawers. After several failed attempts to grab it, I finally took a wire coat hanger and unbent it using the "hook" to snatch the culprit. It turned out to be a single sheet of paper. I was about to toss it when I noticed a recipe I had jotted down at some point and time. I would love to give credit to whomever the inspiration or origination of this recipe was but all I have to go on is a picture of  Glinda the Good Witch at the top of the page saying "I try to live simply, but Drama keeps following me everywhere" Apologies to any and everyone who made and posted this recipe before me.

 Cobbler topping
2 cups flour
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons baking powser
6 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 425, mix everything but the cream until nice crumbs form. Add the cream and stir until it is moistened. Spread on a baking pan and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool then break into small pieces (think Cheese Nip sizes). I will be totally transparent and tell you I did not do this at all. I had a partial bag of tortilla chips, so I crumbled them and used it as my topping. I am sure this would have been delicious but I was not willing to put the time and ingredients required when I had a perfectly acceptable ready made substitution.

Cobbler filling
3 ounces cream cheese softened
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can green enchilada sauce
2 4 ounce cans greed chilis (drained)
2 cups chopped chicken
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

Mix the creamed cheese with the soup, stir in the green enchilada sauce, add the chilis and chicken and pour the mixture into and 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and lastly put the crumb topping over the cheese. Pop into a 350 degree oven for about 40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Son2 and GF2 at with me the night I made this and it was a huge hit with both of them. I served it with tomato slices and fresh pineapple. I had intended to make a green salad but the crisper was acting wonky so I had a half a head of frozen lettuce. Oh well, at least I had a pineapple and some tomatoes.

I was thinking about what I would do differently. I used about half the cheese it called for and it was perfectly tasty. I might make the cobbler topping since it was a little soupy and the topping would absorb some of the liquid. I did use the low fat soup and also Neufchatel cheese for a lower fat version and I used about half of the chicken it called for, cause that was all the cooked chicken I had. Next time I will probably veg it up with some green and red pepper strips and some onion slices.  Even without them it was darn tasty. This is going into my once a month rotation.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Recipe Week 13

Small Batch Dinner Rolls

1/2 cup warm water (about 105 degrees)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray a small pan with Pam.
Place the water, olive oil, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. (I am sure you can do this  and the kneading by hand but I have the dough hook so I use it) Stir to mix then let the mixture rest for 15 minutes. It should be very foamy. If not the yeast is not doing its job and the rolls will not rise. Mix in the salt and flour using the dough hook. Begin on low until the flour begins to incorporate then increase the speed to the 2nd setting. Leave it there for about 1 minute then put it on the 3rd setting and leave it until the dough forms a ball and the sides of the bowl are mainly clean.  (If the dough feels too sticky add additional flour 1 tablespoon at a time. This is a very soft dough so add no more than 2 tablespoons)
Put the dough on a floured board and section it into 4 pieces. Roll into balls and place them in the pan. Let rest 5 minutes before baking. Bake for about 12 minutes until the tops are golden brown.

I doubled this recipe because we thought Son2 and GF2 might stop by for dinner. I baked these in a standard square cake pan so they were not as pretty as they would have been if I had baked them in a round pan. I also forgot to take a picture when they first came out of the oven so these are just the leftover rolls.

This was a super easy and quick way to have homemade bread for dinner. The rolls were slightly sweet with a defined yeast flavor. The consistency was somewhere between a standard dinner roll and a very light biscuit. I will continue to make these on occasion. I liked not buying a pack of dinner rolls because the last couple always ruin before we can eat them. This time I had 4 leftover rolls, which were good for the next day's meal.

I am going to experiment with various herb toppings and also try to make cinnamon rolls for breakfast at the lake this weekend. (I have no mixer at the lake so I will have to hand mix and knead it. I will let you know how it goes.)

Anyway, try this. It is easy and really tasty!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

April In Paris?

Now that would bring me intense joy but it is not going to be happening. Instead I will spend April in Birmingham. Similar, yes? Well only similar in that Birmingham does have the world's largest iron statue. Impressed? Me either!  I need to go there one day soon and take a photo of his bare butt, the inspiration for the local song "Moon Over Homewood" which it one of the abutting (no pun intended) suburban cities.

April! I am truly wondering what joy I am going to find this month. As I sit here trying to think of joyful things to do I am coming up with zilch.

1. Continue expanding my horizons
a.  Try a new recipe each week
b.  Try a new food each week
c.  Read articles from 4 magazines I do not usually read
d. Wear a color I never wear (orange or yellow, which mean buyings something since I have none)
e. Try a different hair color (I am thinking one that does not grow in nature, teal maybe?)
f.  Listen to an opera, symphony, spoken word, and lecture. completely and totally uninterrupted.

2.  Go to a museum

3.  Go to a craft fair or art show

4.  Have Mom up to eat weekly

5.  Send a thinking of you card to someone

6.  Take food to someone having a hard time

7.  Visit with relatives I have not seen lately.

8.  Do something for someone expecting nothing in return (anonymous is best)

9.  Visit some small town nearby and find something unique about the place.

10. Create something besides food 2 times this month

11.Go to the lake and spend the weekend

12. Read a traditional mystery,  preferably with a gumshoe detective (I am not a big mystery fan)

13. More than half ass learn a new song on the piano

14. Try something I have never tried before (action or trade)

15. Whistle

16. Draw, paint or charcoal sketch

17. Volunteer

18. Meet Son3 for lunch (will require traveling on my part)

19. Sit in the sun and listen to the birds sing (early morning is best)

20. Listen to  and watch small kids playing  (I can only do this in my neighborhood without looking like some kind of creep, so this is subject to my small neighbors playing outside)

21. Buy lemonade from a kid lemonade stand.

22. See a play or concert

23. Find and enjoy some free live music

24. Go to Vulcan and take a picture of his bare butt (now it sounds like fun)

25. Have a small dinner party

26. Bake cookies and brownies and invite  neighbors for a snack

27. Plant whatever veggies we intend to grow this year.

28. Plant zinnias and marigolds

29. Take flowers to someone

30. Practice kindness

31. Listen actively to TheHub when he talks to me.

32. Facetime weekly with the most beautiful girl in my world

33. Get in touch with someone I have neglected or "forgotten"

34. Keep a list of unexpected joys

April unexpected joys

1.  Wonderful NBC live performance of Jesus Christ Superstar
2.  BIL found he was extremely dehydrated (of all the possibilities that were mentioned this was               great)

Monday, April 2, 2018

March Joy List update

March was disappointing or maybe I was disappointing. I tried and failed a lot of it. On to April! Maybe I won't flunk it.

1. Continue expanding my personal horizons

a. Listen to  "In This House On This Morning"completely through, uninterrupted. Done
    Listen to "la Boheme"  completely and uninterrupted. Nope
    Listen to "Peter and the Wolf", completely and uninterrupted Done
    Listen to   "Symphony No.3" by Mahler completely and uninterrupted Done

b. Read that blooming self help book I didn't read in February. I did not realize it is a 180 day step by step commitment. I am committed but obviously need some time to complete it.
c. Try a new to me beverage each week
Mr Q Cumber Sparkling Soda (Mildly sweet huge cuke taste and oddly refreshing)
Jalapeno Pineapple Margarita (Alcohol plus heat is a winner in my book)
Columbian Hot Chocolate (Cocoa, cinnamon, milk , and cheese?!?)
Bourbon Cola  (Meh_just flavored coke)
d. Make a new to me recipe each week
pecan bread
buffalo chicken nachos
chicken mango sausage
e. Try a different hair color. Tried silver for a few days. Yeah, NO!
f. Weekly read  a new to me magazine or one I never read even if I know about it. (doable thanks to DIL's Texture gift)
Popular Mechanics

2.   Call My Beloved Sister on March 15. Pitch my voice down as low as possible  and say "Beware the Ides of March" (She hates March and particularly the Ides, so naturally I have been doing this to her for about 30 years)
3.   Try something I have never done before. Nope
4.   Go to a movie by myself, popcorn optional Nope
5.   Go to a play or concert Nope We had tickets to see The Lion King but had seen it before. Son2 and GF2 had never seen it so we gave the tickets to them.
6.   Volunteer Didn't happen
7.   Have a birthday celebration for Mom
We had what we thought was a nice little party at my house, complete with festive decorations, a meal, cake, candles and gifts. We later found that My Beloved Sister and I laugh too much and it disrupts everyone's enjoyment and involvement. Oh well, we tried.
8.   Learn a new song on the piano Half-assed learned
9.  Give someone flowers. Done
10. Take food to someone having a hard time Done
11. Call a long neglected friend Tried but just once and she was not at home.
12. Send a thinking of you card simply because I am thinking of someone Done
13. Enjoy sitting in the sun and listening to the birds sing  Done. Mornings with a cup of coffee and birdsongs are the best
14. Watch young kids playing and listen to their giggles The kids in the neighborhood who are usually outside playing and laughing were sadly absent this month.
15. Invest some time looking at plants and planning the summer garden. Half assed this too
16. Create something weekly that is not food related I did this 2 times this month rather than weekly
17. Tell someone how important they are to my life. (No idea who ) Nope. I forgot about this one
18. Do something for someone expecting nothing in return. Anonymous is best. Done but it was not anonymous
19 During the days between whole30 (Yes I am doing it again but taking a 2 day break) bake bread. Done
20. Create time to just listen to TheHub (I am bad about not paying attention or multi tasking sometimes)
It is amazing how much more I hear  and process when I concentrate on really listening. I find we talk more and talk about varied topics when I am truly present.
21. Visit a small town near me and enjoy its uniqueness. Didn't happen
22.  Spend at least one weekend at the lake.
We had a great, lazy weekend at the lake the first weekend of March with Mom, Son2 and GF2.
We went again the 3rd weekend in March and had an equally good time.
23. Take Mom somewhere different (Maybe exploring the small town)
Took Mom to the lake for the weekend.
24. Take Mom out at night, she misses the lights. Done
25. Have an fire outside and roast marshmallows for s'mores. Nope, but it was a pollen thing rather than just not doing it.
26. FaceTime weekly with the most beautiful girl in my world.
Done to my total delight!
27. Binge watch something on a rainy day.  Done. Watched Requiem on Netflix. I tend to binge listen more than watch since I carry my tablet around the house and watch/listen as I do chores.
28. Have a St. Patrick's Day celebration
Had an unsuccessful one (Mom got sickish halfway though) but the food and decor was really nice
29. Have a small dinner party 
Mom's Birthday dinner for 7 ( we decided to have a full dinner with china, crystal and the works)
30. Try to start each day spirit filled. I am batting about 500 with this one. 
31. Be kinder than usual. Our world needs each of us to step up our kindness. I am pretty kind by nature but have been on alert to be kinder. I am practicing the think globally, act locally mentality. 
32. Keep a list of daily joys. They are out there but sometimes I forget to look for them. I was good at this the first half of the month but then fell off the wagon.

March's Unexpected Joys

1.  GF2's family welcomed a new baby into the world. Nothing is more joyous than that. He is so pretty!
2.  Went to the lake and saw the most incredible full moon tracking across the water.
3.  Went to the farm co-op near the lake place and bought seeds for the summer garden. Hope springs eternal.
4.  Listened to Frances McDormand's wonderful acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.
5  GF2 came by. She makes every day she is around me a better day.
6  Whole30 is over and 11 pounds are gone. 2 or 3 days off and I am repeating the cycle.
7. Forget to defrost anything for dinner, so we had a wonderful take out Thai dinner
8. GF2 came over (I really do love her)
9.  Got to see the rough take of a music video Son 3 scored.
10 Watched 3 Billboards. I thought it was supposed t be a dark comedy. Great acting but nothing funny about it.
11. FaceTime with granddaughter. She wanted to see TheHub sleeping in his chair, then yelled "WAKE UP" 3 times until he woke. She is the only one who can wake him from a nap and him be happy about it.
12. Birthday party for Mom! Lots of laughs (too many it turns out)
13. I was mad at the world and forgot to look for joy.
14. Went back to Bible study after a protracted absence.
15. Got to call My Beloved Sister this morning and do the "Beware the Idea of March" thing. Made me laugh
16-31 Lots of really joyous things happened but I forgot to post them so here is a brief synopsis of events tied to no specific dates.
Azaleas bloomed
Dogwoods bloomed
Wisteria bloomed and is gorgeous
Nice dinner conversations
Great news from Son3
Cousin's beautiful daughter is newly engaged
Great niece danced as young Anna in the ballet Frozen
The back yard was filled with cardinals.
Found new to me music by an incredible Cuban female vocalist
Had an excellent time at bookclub with friends.
Saw 2 more Oscar nominated movies (thanks Redbox)