Thursday, December 12, 2019

There's That Christmas Music Again!

Honestly, I'm not sure if it's the Christmas Music or the Hallmark Christmas Movies, but they got me in the mood again.  I scrounged around my closets and cupboards and drug out a few Christmas decorations.

It's kind of fake really .... those candles are battery operated, as are the tree lights.  I think it's a first that after an entire year in the dark, the batteries actually still worked.  It's a miracle.  The stockings were hung with care, but they refused to stay straight, thus the side view.

Of course the biggest one is mine.  It's actually well over 60 years old.  No, I'm not telling you just HOW old it is, but was made by my grandmother when I was maybe 3.  No tree again this year.  Time just flies by too fast.  As soon as I get one up and decorated, I have to take it down when I head to the rally.  In exczelcious dayooooooo!!
Here's that instant pot again.   I had the thought of cooking a chicken in it for Cooper's food.  Thirty minutes sounded much better than 90 minutes on the barbecue.  But wait ..... how about a turkey?  That huge pot is the perfect size for a six pounder and Cooper doesn't care one bit if it's nice and brown.  Nine ladies dancing ......... eight ........... or was it maids milking?
Thirty minutes later, it was done.  Amazing!!  I even threw a quiche in my Breville oven for good measure.  Jingle bells, jingle bells .......  I can't seem to get that out of my head.
ERRRRRRRRR!!  That was my Chef hat coming to a screeching stop.  It's watercolor painting day, along with a nice Christmas potluck.  You know cooking for a group is not my forte!  When she said I didn't have to cook ... I could just heat up a frozen lasagne ... I said yes.  I'm sure it was the Christmas music they were playing at the time.

Here's the problem ..... the class starts at 9:30.  That means it's going to sit for two hours before we eat.  I guess I'll bundle it up in one of my big bath towels and hope it stays at least lukewarm.
I AM looking forward to the class.  I worked on my cup a little more and am ready for my critique!  Sadly, my friend won't be there.  I'll be at the mercy of fifteen wonderful experienced painters.  Wish me luck!!!!  Ten lords a leaping ..... five golden rings!!!  Whatever!!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

There's Always ONE!!!

The Magic Kingdom is always a pleasant divergence from the norm.  The peasants are a crafty bunch of superstitious, token wearing, totem worshiping players of the gambling strain that forces them to throw their money away for the WIN!!   It's amazing to me how addictive this "fun" really is.

It doesn't seem to matter if it's a knee replacement, a broken arm from falling or even a terrible stroke.  The players are back every single week.  Last night the excuse was "I'm trying to win back all that money I had to spend on my kids for Christmas".

It's sad really.  One gentleman had a stroke and can barely walk with a cane.  He only has the use of one arm, and that isn't very functional.  The worst part ... he cannot speak, so sometimes it's difficult to figure out what he is requesting.  I guess I have to give it up to him for being so tenacious.
On the other hand, last night brought to light one of the more normal peasant activities.  Seeing how much they can steal.  

One elderly female peasant jumped to the front of the line, crowding in front of about ten people, with money in hand.  She grabbed one card (worth $1) and tried to give me a $5 bill.  I was in the middle of another transaction on the infernal machine and could not give her change.  She just walked off with the money AND the card.  WAIT!!!  I was finally able to chase her down.
You would think since that didn't work, she would give it up.  Nope!  Believe it or not, she came back while I was again distracted, dropped $1 on the table and left with THREE cards.  This time I reprimanded her for trying to sneak (steal actually) more than she paid for.  

It's just amazing what they will try to get away with.  There's always ONE!!  Many times three or four!  When payouts are involved, they will do just about anything to up their chances.

The rest of the night went smoothly ... sort of ... and I admit I was $2 over.  Just before a game is played, they swarm the table buying the cards they should have bought when they first came in.  Sometimes I don't get them all in the infernal machine.  Or maybe it was just the infernal machine letting me know he is STILL the boss.

I got home at eleven o'clock and got up at 4:00.  My guess is I'll be on the couch with the puppies, snacking on those cookies that the Castle Lawyer didn't get.
Actually I'm going to need a little sugar high.  I glanced at the calendar to discover I'm only a few short weeks from taking off for the RV Rally.  I'm SO behind in packing, washing the rig and planning for January.  I definitely need to get my act together!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Christmas Music Makes Me Bake!!

There's nothing like a long Sunday afternoon watching football for me to become bored to tears.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE football, but for the most part, the teams playing didn't interest me.  The 49'ers played a good game, but I don't like them any more due to their stance on the American Flag.

So when Monday rolled around, I put on some Christmas music to get in the mood.  All it made me want to do was bake.  But what to do with all the results?  I've no kids or family around to pass them off on ... I mean GIVE them to.  I scrounged through the cupboards to see what I might find.

Sure enough ... perfect for Christmas ... snowballs!!  Actually, Mexican Christmas cookies.  Super easy to make, except for that grinding the nuts part.  I had to clean up nuts from one side of the kitchen to the other.  The powdered sugar you roll them in was even worse.
At least I thought to put towels underneath the racks to catch the soft white powdery stuff, but THEN you had to dip them TWICE!!  It looked like it snowed in my kitchen!!  Even the puppies helped with THAT cleanup!!  

Here's my little stash which I did NOT double dip.  I figured they were sugary enough.  These went in the freezer.  The box above contains a major portion which will go to the Castle Lawyer tonight.  At least she has grandkids to pass them off to!!
Then I saw THIS little recipe.  There's really no baking involved.  These don't even have a name.  It's what I picked up from watching the Hallmark Channel.  Take an entire sleeve of Ritz crackers.  Just to be sure they were healthy, I chose the whole wheat variety, which is completely OFF my list of edible things.  

Smear a little peanut butter between two.  They said to use a LOT, so I did.  Don't do that.  Use just a little.  Then place a second cracker on top.  I broke one, which meant I had to eat it.  That left me with one cracker over ... so of course I had to eat that one too!!  I could feel the wheat coursing through my veins.

Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.  Although I could have used my instant pot ... it works great as a double boiler ... I used my glass bowl over a saucepan.  Here's the thing.  See that spoon standing up?  It's way too thick.  Do NOT try to add anything to the hot melted chocolate to thin it out.  It seizes up and turns into a solid block.  Don't ask me how I know that!!
Once the second batch was melted along with a little cream I put in while it was cold, I hand dipped the crackers into the lovely brown sauce and laid them on a sheet pan.  Since I had just a tad of chocolate left over, I dabbed it on top of each one.  Off to the fridge they went.  That's it ..... no COOKING ... no BAKING!!
Now for the taste test!!  Just ONE almost killed me.  These are the most decadent, chocolaty, peanut buttery snacks I've ever had!!  They also immediately put me into a sugar coma that lasted for the next two hours.  In fact, I figured I would never need any more sugar the rest of my life as I laid flat out on the couch!!

Yes, they were THAT good!!  However, in the interest of staying alert and not crashing totally, I would use less peanut butter and less chocolate.  Honestly, I would rather stick to the snowballs that are not NEAR as sweet!  Go figure!!

It's time for the Magic Kingdom again, so you will probably find me snoozing on the couch later this morning, gearing up for the onslaught of peasants.  

Monday, December 9, 2019

Winner Winner, Chicken Dinner!!!

This company is making a killing around the world.  I joined a Facebook group of Instant PotHeads who are obsessed.  I have to admit it's a pretty fun toy to play with in the kitchen.  If you have frozen chicken and you need dinner in 45 minutes, you can do it.

You can even make some of the most tender baby back ribs I've ever eaten, although they look rather disgusting with no browning feature at all.  You must put everything into the oven on broil to get the desired dark brown crunchy crust we all know and love.

That's why I got pretty excited when I saw the review of this latest and greatest instant pot ... with an AIR FRYER.  The thing I forgot to check was the number in the bottom left hand corner.  That big 8 stands for 8 quarts, meaning it's a beast.  It measures fifteen inches across (the counter space required)  with the unit itself being about twelve.  That's about three inches wider than my six quart.
That means I can now cook for a crowd of thirty with no problem.  Do you know how many times there has been 30 people in my house?  Exactly NONE, but the lure of crispy chicken wings won out.  I first did the obligatory water test.  About three cups, turn it on to high pressure and see if it works.
A few things have changed, like you now have to hit a start button.  I forgot and it turned off.  I'm pretty sure every single instant pot out there is different in some way.  It's a test to keep you sharp.  Anyway, I put all of these pieces together, which nested very nicely in the pot.  No water was used in this endeavor.

The RAW wings went on the metal strainer at the top.  I suppose I could have pressure cooked them first, but since he didn't do that on the review, I didn't think I needed to.  I carefully placed the lid on top, hit BROIL (it automatically turns to 400 degrees) and set it for twelve minutes.

By now I was salivating ..... ooooh these are going to be good!!  At the halfway point, I lifted off the lid and placed it on the handy dandy lid holder so it wouldn't burn my counter.  They were not even close to done.  I flipped them over, put the top on and added more time.

Tapping my toe, I waited for the ding.  STILL not done.  I turned them over again and added another ten minutes.  DING!  By now I'm getting irritated.  In the review, it only took ten minutes.
At long last, an actual 26 minutes later ...... CHICKEN DINNER!  Do they not look fabulous?  Oh my goodness they were delicious!  I might point out however that I probably could have done the same thing in my Breville Oven, although that would have raised my PG&E bill $25.  I was able to cook about twelve pieces at a time.
I had slathered them with garlic butter, so they were not only crispy, but tasty!!  Winner winner!!  Chicken dinner!!  Then came the cleanup.  Yes you do have to wash every single piece shown above.  Washing dishes is NOT my thing (remember, I'm the one who uses strictly paper plates), but I powered through.  Possibly you could use your dishwasher for everything except the metal screen.  Maybe some spray Pam would have helped.

Next up?  Air fried fish.

Would I recommend this to anyone?  Yes and no.  Yes if you have counter space and no oven of any kind that will crisp things up.  Yes if you have lots of people over for dinner or a big family.  For just two people in an RV?  As I said, it's huge.  I never even begin to fill up my 6 quart pot when cooking for me, although frozen leftovers are a good thing.  Maybe I'll use it at RV Rallies requiring potluck dishes.  

Besides that, it was an expensive $140 ON SALE!!  That's a big chunk unless you also want to dehydrate fruits and vegetables, make jerky or need enough yogurt for two months.  So there you have it.  I'll let you know how the fish fry goes.  I'm also thinking onion rings.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Merry Christmas To Me!!

Let me explain this weird picture.  Every morning when I sit down at my desk to write the blog and read everyone else's, this is what I contend with.  I'm sitting on the very tiny two inch front edge while Miss Jessie claims the rest of my cushy chair.  She just won't have it any other way.  I guess that's puppy love!
When it hasn't been raining, it's been foggy.  Nothing like in the old days when you literally couldn't see the white line while driving, but foggy enough to cause accidents around town because the speeding idiots don't know when to slow down.  After all, they are usually running away FAST from the place they just robbed.  I've no sympathy when they crash!!
I continued my quest to clean the gutters yesterday, finally all the way around to the front.  Wasn't I surprised to find the two shortest gutters completely full of water.  When I got to the first downspout, I had to work a little harder to get it unplugged.  

Water came out the bottom like a dam breaking.  I swear you could hear the whirlpool!!  I never did get the second downspout unblocked.  It's probably that piece of wire I stuck down there last time and never could retrieve.  It's time to call in an expert to dismantle the entire thing!  RATS!!!
All of that was made instantly better by the arrival of my Christmas present to myself.  OH LOOK!! ANOTHER INSTANT POT!!  But here's the thing .... it's also an air fryer.  A HUGE air fryer of mammoth proportions at 8 quarts.  If you ever need food for 50 people, I'm your gal.
Here's a picture of all the pieces.  It has a regular pressure pot lid, along with these accessories, allowing you to air fry.  The very top section has the heating element and fan to crisp up anything my little heart desires.  

Amazingly, you can also dehydrate with it, things like dried fruit or jerky.  AND you can broil stuff!  Finally, a multi-tasking instant pot.
You don't even need those accessories for making mac n cheese with a lovely browned cheesy crust.  Just change out the lids and brown away.  The air fryer lid even comes with a handy resting stand that doubles as a bottom lid for storage.  I can't wait to try it out!!
What to make ... what to make.  I looked on-line at Pressure Luck Cooking's website and found his glowing review of this same Instant Pot.  He made chicken wings that looked wonderful.  Today I'm headed to the store for those soon to be delicious crunchy snacks.  Maybe I'll even bake some Christmas cookies for good measure.  I'm proudly wearing my chef hat today, so we'll see what happens.  

At this moment, it seems I have over 500 emails to wade through.  I know it's Christmas and all, but the spammers are out in full force.  I wouldn't bother, but sometimes I get REAL emails amid the junk.  This should be fun!!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

My SECOND Masterpiece!!

I've no idea what got in to me as I sauntered by the long aisle of edible cow and chicken.  I usually just grab the fowl and head on out the door.  On THIS day however, I remembered the amazing fillet mignon I used to order at a tiny restaurant in Lake Tahoe called the Greenhouse.  It was melt in your mouth.  

Sadly, I have to tell you that the quality of meat is nowhere near what it was when we were raising beef on the ranch.  Back then there were two kinds.  Prime and choice.  Prime meat was held in the lockers to age, making it much more tender and tasty.  Choice was basically tough hamburger.

In today's world, there are about 8 different grades, none of which compare to the Prime of old.  You might find some at say Gallaghers Steakhouse in New York where they age it to perfection.  In your local market however, you are probably lucky to get select meat ... that's the grade BELOW choice.  You will need a sharp knife, which is why I basically gave up on cooking beef.

Even as little as twenty years ago, I picked up fillet at my local very small town butcher shop, back when they actually HAD butcher shops.  So when I saw THIS sitting amid the hamburger, london broil and tri-tip, I caved.  I purposely am not showing you the price.  You would spit your coffee across the table.

It was ridiculously expensive.  I had a moment of insanity and dropped it in my basket.  I guess I yearned for a taste of the past.  Although I had a fleeting thought of cutting it up for stroganoff (believe it or not, it used to be so cheap we actually did that), in the end I decided to cook it on my barbecue the same way George Yates showed me how to cook a chicken.  

Well .... not exactly ... I seared all the sides on high, then turned it down to low and let it go.  I totally guessed on the amount of time, checking it occasionally with my new digital thermometer.  I finally got rid of my Air Conditioning thermometer, which didn't really work well for meat.

It came out FABULOUS!!!  I let it rest for 15 minutes before cutting a nice slab.  YUM YUM!!  It might have been a better walk down memory lane if I made burners sauce (just wanted to show you auto correct ... first it said burmoose) but really it was B√ČARNAISE sauce.  Still, it was a masterpiece I was proud of.  HOWEVER, in no way was it as good as in years past.
I had it for breakfast, lunch and dinner until finally using up the balance for stroganoff.  Unfortunately the chicken broth I used, because I didn't have beef broth, didn't do much for the flavor.    I certainly wouldn't feed it to company, but I'm NOT going to throw away one single ounce of this lovely cow.

In the meantime, I tried to play President of the Golden Spike Group.  I needed to send out an agenda for the Indio Rally, along with pot luck assignments.  I failed miserably.  The Group I spent two hours compiling with all those emails, disappeared completely.  The only group left was the four emails that were rejected.  Frustrating to say the least.

I can't believe I'm better at painting than I am creating GROUPS!

Friday, December 6, 2019

My First Masterpiece!!!

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to draw.  I was jealous of anyone who could paint.  Every time Bob Ross was on TV painting those gorgeous landscapes, I watched in awe, knowing I was never going to be able to do that.  He made it look so easy!!

So when my friend from my college Photography Class posted her paintings on Facebook, I became the same obsessed kid I was in grammar school.  I never in a million years figured I could do something like that, mostly because I live in a tiny farming community full of thieves and druggies.  Yes I did check out classes at the college, but their schedule never meshed with mine.

When Renate said to come to her class, I jumped on board!!  Are you sure they don't mind?  I've never done this before.  No problem she said.

I got to class with all my goodies and spread out across the table.  I have to say, there is an order of things.  I got it all wrong.  Eventually, I'm sure I will organize my workspace better.

I learned all about paper and how to tear it in pieces to get the required rough edge.  It's the weirdest thing I've ever seen.  I can't even explain how it's done.  

Next up I spent about 60 minutes putting paint in my pallet box.  There is an order to that also.  In no time, I had paint all over my fingers.  At last, she said "what do you want to paint?"  I looked through my phone and showed her a couple of my photographs.  Okay ..... let's start with Mary's coffee cup.

Ummmmm not these pretty flowers?  Seriously, she put the cup in front of me and said ... draw it.  Talk about pressure!!!  I drew the cup on a piece of old dirty paper, donated by my friend Renate, who then showed me her style of painting.  There's a "style"??  Believe it or not, everyone paints in completely different ways.   

You can see at the top ... the H looking thing ... where I tried her style and LOVED it!!  Okay then!!  By that time, the big hand was on twelve, followed quickly by the little hand.  Time to go.  I loaded up all my stuff, leaving my newly acquired watercolor paper on the back counter.  
Once home, I figured I would redraw my cup and paint it in magnificent brush strokes.  Alas, I had no paper other than the piece Renate gave me.  I made several frantic phone calls, finding everyone out to lunch.

So here it is in all it's glory, my very first watercolor coffee cup, painted on dirty paper with an H across the top.  Don't laugh, it's a work in progress!  I actually had to look on the internet to determine how to make gray for the shadow, since that's not a color I had.  Once you paint a little, you cannot add other colors until the paper dries.  So every painting takes several days, if not weeks, to complete.  

The next thing I knew, I had chunks of paint all over the back of my hand.  Where did THAT come from?  Then I stuck my pinkie finger in the red!  Well for heaven's sake.  Now it's all over my shirt and jeans!!  AND THE COUNTER!!  I spent an hour cleaning up before getting back to my cup.

It's a good thing I didn't pay a fortune for art classes.  Hey, it's a start!!  At any rate, my homework this week is to draw something to paint NEXT week.  I looked through all my pictures and decided they were too complicated for a beginner.  Maybe I'll paint a glass of water this time!!

In the meantime, I finally contacted the church where we met and picked up my paper.  Here's another secret I learned.  You can TRACE your picture onto the paper instead of drawing it.  Okay then ..... I got this!!!!

Hopefully I'll figure out WHAT to paint before next week.  In the meantime, I wonder what I can use to get red paint out of my natural stone countertop.