Wednesday, November 14, 2018

B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O, B-I-N-G-O

And Bingo was his name sir!  Can't seem to get that song out of my head.  Well ..... was it a full moon last night??  I'm SURE it was a full moon, because all the crazies came out to harass us and try our patience.  Unfortunately, patience was in short supply.
With most of the crew off the sick list, the hour's pre-show-laughter made all the difference.  It was fun to meet back with the guys and catch up on all the local gossip.  It's always a pleasure to see that all our troops are still alive.  

Even our 98 year old Army Veteran walked up the stairs under his own power after having broken his hip in a fall.  He's a tough old bird, to be another year older the first of February.  It's a miracle, or maybe it's the Corona.

As much as I would rather run the cash register, it was my turn to count cards.  You know what irritates me most?  They spend ten minutes picking out three packs.  We ring it up, they pay.  Then they say, as I'm already spouting off the next order, oh wait ..... I think I need a double action.  

We finish that transaction and she says OH WAIT ... I need a Bonanza and a dobber.  Four transactions later, she finally leaves the table.  Couldn't you get it all at once and save us time and paper?

It happens that on this day, the Boy Scout Troop (8 of them) came to get cans of food, which in turn gets the players ONE free game.  They laugh, they play games, they throw things back and forth (the boy scouts that is), making so much noise we can't hear each other, let alone think.  Add to that the Bingo players hollering at each other because they were taking too much time, and it was chaos.

I loudly asked the boys to be quiet (by the way, Mom and Dad were standing there making JUST as much noise).  They didn't hear me they were talking so loud.  I finally yelled at the top of my lungs!  I instantly became the bad guy, getting dirty looks from Dad.  

Five minutes later, the Castle Lawyer had to do the screaming to get them to be quiet.  It happens every single time they are here.  This time I put in a request they be relegated to the back door.

Then came the two players who were arguing and throwing bad comments back and forth.  At first I thought they were kidding, but come to find out, they were serious.  I fully expected a knock down drag out on-the-floor fight.  They also got the "knock it off" speech.  

Seriously, it went on like that ALL NIGHT LONG.  The only reason "I" stayed was because it was turkey night.  All of us volunteers stick around all year putting up with this nonsense so we can get a free 12 pound turkey at Thanksgiving.  

Okay, not really .... we DO like each other's company.  Truthfully we stay because of the Christmas dinner we get free, meaning we can order anything off the Friday Night Menu.  Prime Rib baby!!!!

We ended up being over $20.   The back room needed change.  I gave them $100 worth of 5's and 10's in exchange for 5 twenty dollar bills.  Fifteen minutes later, they brought back one $20 and said we counted wrong.  Okay.  At the end of the night, we were over $20.  

I got home just in time to completely rearrange my freezer so I could add the frozen turkey.  That's when I got the phone call.  Company was on the way.  The perfect ending to a wonderful night of Bingo.  

My plan is to hug my couch all day, maybe do a little sewing.  Hopefully that will remove all the grumpy Bingo thoughts from my head!!  Maybe a HUGE piece of apple pie will do the trick!!!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

My Masterpieces May Be Cemetery Material

Okay folks, it's time to put that pie dough to good use.  I had two huge rounds of dough I brought home from the class.  Having kept it in the fridge, I set it out to warm up.  That took some time, since my house is only 65 degrees inside.  Temps have been in the low 30's every night.  Next ... on to the apples.

THIS is the greatest thing since peanut butter!!  Have you ever used one?  Whoever invented this contraption is a genius.  It peels, cuts and cores apples in a matter of seconds.  Literally seconds!!  I bought it from Pampered Chef on a whim.
Dump them in a bowl and cut the apple in half to get perfect slices for the amazing pie I'm about to create.  You need a couple tablespoons of lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.  Uh oh ... my juice was outdated.  I used it anyway, adding in a touch of lime juice which I had three bottles of.  Why, I have no idea.
Crust time!!  I used a spray bottle to add a little moisture (a great trick) and rolled it out.  I was thinking it was rather hard to roll, but chalked it up to being cold.  I rolled and rolled and rolled some more.  I think I need one of those big heavy Costco rolling pins.

I carefully loaded it into my deepest tart pan ... the kind where the bottom comes out.  It was beautiful, although a little thick in places.  I should have rolled it some more I suppose.
I dumped a cup of sugar into the apples, along with cinnamon, nutmeg and a touch of flour.  I would have added the lemon extract, but alas there was none in the cabinet.  Now for the top crust.  I wanted to make a caramelized onion and cheese tart, so I opted for a crumble on this one.

Super easy .... mix up chunks of butter, flour and brown sugar.  I wish I had those little scrapers.  It might have been easier than using a fork to break up rock hard butter.
Fifty minutes in the oven and it looked done.  I did a knife test.  Nope .... apples not soft.  Another 15 minutes and they STILL weren't done.  At long last, another ten minutes and it was out of the oven.  It looked good .... even the pie crust looked done, although kind of thick in places.  I'll let it cool.
In the meantime, I used the second round of dough for the onion/goat cheese tart.  I admit, goat cheese is NOT my favorite.  It's WAY too strong for me but the one we made at the school was delicious, so here goes.  

Cream cheese, onions, goat cheese and cream.  Hmmmm he made one recipe for TWO crusts and I only have one.  I pre-baked the shell, having filled it with aluminum foil and beans, to keep the crust from shrinking.

Hmmmm again.  Somehow I don't think I baked it enough.  Oh well ... I AM following the directions.  I filled the shell with the ooey gooey filling, adding in sun-dried tomatoes for a little more flavor.  

After fifteen minutes in the oven .... the entire baking time .... it didn't look done.  Another fifteen minutes and yet ANOTHER fifteen minutes.  The crust still didn't look done, but the filling was set.

I let it cool slightly, removed the ring around the side and got ready to taste something DELICIOUS!!  Or not.  The crust didn't get done at all.  It's completely raw underneath and only partially cooked around the edges. 

The goat cheese is ....... well ....... edible I suppose, if you like goat cheese.  In small amounts, it wasn't too bad.  So far I've choked down two slices, scraping it off the raw crust.  Not good ..... not good at all.  Looks are deceiving.  THIS is a candidate for the cemetery.
To counteract the goat flavor, I removed the ring from the apple pie and cut a nice large slice.  It will take that much to get the goat out of my mouth.  I smothered it in caramel just in case it wasn't sweet enough.  THIS is a winner, however I must admit, the crust needs salt and a little bit of sugar.  Either use salted butter (which I did not at the school) or put salt in (which I did not do either).  

Also a tad bit too thick, the crust is otherwise pretty flakey.  So now it's not about the recipe or rolling out (well sort of, I need to make it thinner) ..... it's about the cooking time.  That's why Chef Ron said to cook it until it's done.  But how do you know????
Next up will be the berry pie, when I buy the berries and make the crust totally on my own.  Keep your fingers crossed ... I'm going to need lots of help and good luck.

I'm off to the garage for the shovel.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Pies, Pies and MORE Pies!!

By now I had forgotten all about the four-wheel drive excursion through the goldfields of Columbia to arrive at my destination.  Honestly, I had expected a huge winery of the Napa variety.  Instead, I ended up at a remodeled barn turned kitchen .... the biggest one I've ever seen.

Looks can deceive ... no matter what his classes are about, he sells out every single weekend.  On to pies!

It just dawned on me that the pastry he is making for the linzer tort used eggs and almond flour.  He mixed up the entire recipe with his little white scraper.  I have always been told to never work the dough much at all.  He rubbed it into the table like a masseuse.
Next up was the dough for apple pies.  It too had an egg and was smashed together by the lady on my left.  Once all the dough was mixed up, we let it rest on the counter for 30-40 minutes.  That must be the secret!  When we returned, he handed me that huge red rolling pin and said to roll one out.

I used twice the flour my Mom would have used and rolled from the middle out.  I can't believe it was so easy to do and actually came out round.  I ran the roller over the top of this fluted tart pan and cut off the extra.  It was magnificent!!!  
THIS is the outcome.  A beautiful linzer tort!  What's in it you ask?  You're not going to believe this one.  We mixed up a huge bottle of plain raspberry jam with Ronrico Rum and poured it in.  Then he rolled out the extra dough and used a pizza cutter to make the lattice.  After brushing with egg wash, he baked it until done.  How long is that?  Until it's DONE he says.  
Next he dusted it with powdered sugar.  LOTS of powdered sugar.  I truthfully could not imagine this tasting that great, but it was over the moon delicious.  Perfect to serve (and impress) at that next huge Christmas Party you are having. 
While all that was going on, we whipped up a pastry cream worthy of doughnut filling.  That was dumped into one of the tart pans with a pie shell we pre-baked.  Then we cut up strawberries and kiwis, along with the biggest blackberries I've ever seen.
That was covered with an apricot glaze made of ... you guessed it .... apricot jam, a quarter teaspoon vinegar (?)  ... yes vinegar, and water.  How simple was that!!
In the meantime, we took chunks of dough from the 15 gallon pot he had mixed up and rolled it out for apple and mixed berry pies.  He actually used the cheapest can of apple pie filling he could find and mixed it up with cinnamon and lemon extract.  If you want to enhance the flavor of your pies, use lemon extract.

Next up the berry filling.  It's just a mixed bag of frozen fruit (blueberries, blackberries, etc.), along with a healthy dose of sugar mixed with a kind of cornstarch you don't have to cook to get it to thicken.  Yup I'm buying a bottle of THAT stuff!

So here was my berry pie, made in one of the small aluminum pans.  My lattice isn't so perfect, but let me tell you ..... that's the best piece of pie I've ever eaten in my life!!  I absolutely could NOT believe how flakey the crust was, not to mention the filling had more berry flavor than you can imagine.
I know this is long .... but next up we had to make the flakey pie dough ourselves.  He gave me a bowl full of flour in front of a huge mixer.  I dumped it in, along with some crisco (the cheapest you can find) and crisco "butter" flavor, or you can use a cube of butter.  

I actually mixed it up using the dough hook.  Who knew you could do that?  In no time, I had it safely tucked away in a zip lok bag to take home.  NOW he says ... you teach everyone else how to do it.  Oh great .... I'm not THAT confident in my skills, but I gave it a shot.  It's okay .. they won't be baking that until they get home and I will never see them again!!

As I mentioned, 11:00 was wine time, and by now it was 12:30.  We all sat down at the table with three or four pieces of pie each and marveled at what we had created and how delicious it was.  

I was so excited, I signed up for this weekend's Scandinavian Food cooking, including salt blocks.  I have no clue what that is, other than I used to set out salt blocks for the cattle years ago.  This will be another adventure.  I think I will drive the much smaller JEEP.

Now all I had to do was figure out how to turn around my too-big truck in the too-small driveway.  I hoochie-gooed around about nine times, moving 12 inches at a time until I was finally free to bounce and bang down the driveway, hoping my little pie didn't spill all over the seats.

All the way home, I worked on a list of the supplies I would need to recreate THE pie.  But wait ... he mixed up the dough, so really, I have no idea which recipe he used.  It was the flakiest I've ever eaten.  I HAVE to figure this out!!  Alas it is going to take me more than one try.  

We'll talk about it tomorrow!!

One more thing ....... THANK A VETERAN TODAY FOR YOUR FREEDOM.  We wouldn't have it without them!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Now THAT Was An Adventure!!!!

So you want to be a Chef?  You want to be able to regale your guests with your piemanship?  Just look online and find a cooking school you can attend in the backwoods of an old Gold Mining Town. The cost you ask?  Only $40.  I signed up ... not because I'm having guests, but because it was something I'd never done before.

It's a 90 minute drive so I left at 8:00.  I even remembered how to get to Jamestown (there's only one road) the previous residence of the Chance family.  I've spent many a happy hour in Jamestown.

Right off the bat, I hit a snag.  The road I wanted to take was closed.  That meant a detour, which in a matter of five miles, had me as lost as I could be.  Nothing looked familiar.  After three wrong turns, I finally found Highway 49.

Now in the town of Columbia with one way streets ... even the two way streets were only one car wide ... I wandered around trying not to hit any parked cars.  I was lost again, taking another two wrong roads.  I would have used my phone GPS, but did I mentioned before, after my upgrade in order to use the watch, it now thinks I'm about 5 miles away in the middle of what looks like a lake.

FINALLY!  A sign pointing up an extremely steep hill, barely (and I mean BARELY) wide enough for my truck.  I floored it, hoping I would make the top.  I was pretty sure I wasn't going to make that hairpin turn and think I took out part of the hill, but around the corner I bumped and banged over the worst road ever before coming to a Y.  With momentum still going, I took a right.  WRONG!!

I ended up in some guys driveway at a house I was sure was abandoned, until he stuck his head out the window.  I'm SO sorry, I made a wrong turn.  The only way I had enough room to turn around was to pull almost completely into his garage.

The only way OUT was down the hill because I was NOT going to be able to make that right hand turn at the Y.  I seriously think half of my left wheels were hanging off the road.  I drove all the way back to Columbia before finding a block I could drive around because there was no room to TURN around anywhere.

By now I'm ready to scrap the entire idea.  I stopped at the bottom of the canyon ... I'm talking 35-40 degree hill here.  I put it in four wheel drive and gave it one more shot.  That hairpin turn surly got smaller the second time!!

At last, I ended up here, thinking I had the wrong place and there was NO room to turn around.  Hmmmm doesn't look like either a winery OR a cooking school.  I sat in the truck thinking maybe I was going to be kidnapped.
At long last, another car pulled up.  I asked if this was the place for cooking.  He pointed to two doors ... one the restroom and one the school.  I was afraid to go in either one, so I chose the restroom first.  It didn't bode well that the toilet would NOT flush.  What have I gotten myself into?????

When I peeked into the school door .... the big barn on the left .... I was relieved to see a wall at least 75 feet long with bookshelves to the ceiling, completely filled with more cookbooks than I've ever seen in my life.  I was given a white apron and told to wash my hands.  "Coffee is on the left".

I went to get coffee while I surveyed my surroundings, only to find a crazy fancy machine that I had no idea how to operate.  Ummmmmm I'm from a ranch in the boon tulles ... can you please show me how this works?  I felt like a dummy, but there were several ladies who very nicely helped me out.

Chef Ron has a sense of humor, as he told the group to be quiet (in no uncertain terms) and went on to describe the class.  We followed him into the DOUGH room, where this amazing tabletop is used for breads and pies.  Just look at the rolling pins behind him.

I was surprised to hear much of his equipment came from Costco.   Those Kirkland brand pots and pans are the BEST he said ... he's on year eight of using his.  We made three different types of pie dough.  He demonstrated one and made us make the others.
Interesting enough, those little scrapers on the table (like the blue one) used for cutting butter into the pie dough?  They are 99 cents at Ace Hardware, $4 at the kitchen store.  They worked so fabulously, I'm getting some.  

He cracked jokes the entire time.  What a funny guy!!  See the water bottle?  You never add in all the water and it does NOT have to be ice water.  When you still have lots of crumbs on the table and need more moisture, you use water from the spray bottle.  I'm sure my mouth was open the entire time as I was so surprised at his methods.  It worked like a charm.
So to keep this from turning into a book the size of War and Peace, I'll finish up tomorrow.  It was the best time I've had in ages and I learned SO much!!!  Wait until you see what I created!!

In the meantime, I'm going to Costco for pans and the hardware store for scrapers.  By the way, small wallpaper brushes make GREAT tools for pie making.  Who knew???

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I'm A Woman Of Few Words

At least for today I am ...........

Yankee Hill Winery And Cooking School

It's a 1-1/2 hour drive to the cool little gold mining town of Columbia, California.  As far as I can see, I'm the only one signed up for "Pies and Torts".   I may just show up to find it has been cancelled.  We shall see!!!

Hopefully the classes don't turn out like Turk the Carvey!!! 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Costco Can Be Detrimental To Your Health

I always go to Costco with a list.  It doesn't help much.  There's so much good stuff, how can you possibly pass it all by??  

My TRUE reason for going there was to check on the variety of ice cream they had and to procure bowls, napkins and spoons for the RV Rally.  I never even SAW the ice cream, let alone THOUGHT about it.  

Instead, I cruised the dessert aisle.  I was so proud I passed by everything!  Not one single desert in the basket.  Then came that refrigerator section where they have everything for a turkey dinner, already cooked.   

Suddenly it dawned on me that Cooper was out of chicken.  Those prepackaged cooked turkey breasts might be just perfect and CHEAPER!!  I bought two.  THEN I spotted the corned beef, packaged all pretty with lots of salt.  Just what I needed for my crampy legs.  
The spoons and napkins were next in the cart.  The only bowls were WAY too big and VERY expensive.  I'll pass on those.  The next thing I know, I've got a box of biscotti, naan bread, gruyere cheese, pork tamales and a huge container of mac and cheese piled up in my cart.  Where did THOSE come from???  Someone was putting stuff in my cart!!!!!

Time to steel myself for the grand total.  It's heart attack time at Costco.  Did I not try to buy very little?  It never fails, the total is ALWAYS over $200, no matter how few items are in the cart.  

Oh ..... and of course my membership was due.  $60 for one year.  In the old days when I was married, it was $40 and easily justifiable.  Nowadays, I seriously doubt I save that much since I rarely shop at Costco.  Once I got over the shock of $274.63, I ran my plastic through the little machine.  It's only money!!  At least I will be reimbursed for $51 worth of rally supplies.

Just so you know, their mac and cheese isn't good at all ... and now I have about three quarts to eat.

When I got home, in order to help balance my checking account, I got on the phone and cancelled Syrius Radio in my rig.  At $20 a month, it's getting too expensive for the joy of listening to music as I drive along for maybe 6 months a year.  Not only that, but did you ever notice they play the same music over and over and over?  

I've been a subscriber for seven years and I'm still listening to the exact same monologue and tunes as I was when I got it.  I think I have a few CD's around here that I can play over and over just the same.

Of course it took me 30 minutes on the phone with the representative to cancel it.  I tried to hang up, but she said I had to listen to all of the offers they had, before she could process the cancellation.  Really?  Okay ..... GO!!

We will give you a discount for one year.      NO

We will send you a radio where you can listen all day long at home.     NO

We will include the radio in your home AND the discount for two years.      NO

At long last after three more tries, she agreed to cancel it for me.  I was put on hold.  Ten minutes later, she came back with one more offer, whereupon I told her NO MORE OFFERS.  I want to CANCEL.  At last, a cancellation number.  Now if I can only find those CD's.

Somewhere in there I went to my dentist for teeth cleaning by a new girl.  Seems the third one I've used has retired.  Gosh, it takes me TWO years just to train them.  Surprisingly, this one did pretty good, saying I got the Patient Gold Star for the day because my teeth were in such good shape.  YAY!!

Since I was on a roll with the "NO" word, when she asked about x-rays, I said NO.  I have no insurance and it's cost prohibitive.  Maybe next time (that's code for maybe in four years).

Since I had such clean wonderful teeth, I figured I might as well sink them into something delicious ... like peanut butter cookies.  That's where the above picture comes from.  The oven gave me fits, but I finally got three dozen edible ones.  They will come in handy when I fire my gardeners next week.  That's tomorrow's story!!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Turk The Carvey!!!

I guess I didn't have to drive all the way over the Sierras to find a pretty sunset after all.  Once in a blue moon they happen right in my back yard.  Everywhere I looked there were magical pink clouds.
It didn't last long however.  These beauties are pretty fleeting.  NOT so pretty OR fleeting was the state of my house upon return.  I've never seen so much dust for just four days.  Honestly, I really did vacuum before I left.

By the time I walked 20 feet across my living room floors, I had to scrape the sand and almond hulls off my feet.  Time for a thorough cleaning ... and you KNOW how much I enjoy doing that!

I vacuumed, steam mopped and used Bona like my mother-in-law was coming to dinner.  I don't have a mother-in-law, but it helps to think that.  At long last ... squeaky clean.  I wore my slippers just in case I missed a spot or two.

I hope that exercise will take care of the muscle cramps I've been getting at night in my legs.  There's almost nothing worse than waking up with pain in your shin so bad you have to stand on it for 20 minutes for relief.  After two nights in a row, I'm hitting the salt shaker.

Way back when I worked at Yosemite National Park, I accidentally ran into a big-time college football coach.  Never look behind you when you are jogging.  Whatever I did caused a big charlie horse in my calf.

After my apologies, he suggested I eat more salt.  You know, the stuff that causes heart attacks that you are NOT supposed to consume?  I tried it and it worked.  So today I'm salting everything I eat.  Even the pancakes.

Miss Jessie is still stuck in the time change zone.  Instead of sleeping IN her bed, she sleeps UNDER it.   Silly girl!!
Just in case you didn't remember, Thanksgiving (and therefore CHRISTMAS) is just around the corner.  It will be here in a flash.  I think I've posted this before, but it's my favorite directions for cooking turkey.  It is SO much my grandmother Grace.  She rarely ever drank, or at least I never saw her.  When she did however, this would be the result.  I miss her laugh.
In the meantime, I'm still trying to find 2,000 ice cream bars and 75 gallons of ice cream for the Indio Rally.  I may just be raiding every grocery store when the time comes.  A trip to Costco is in order today for bowls, spoons and napkins.  I'm going to try very hard to only purchase things from my list.  That never happens so I'll check my bank balance before heading out.