Friday, November 24, 2017

SING IT FOR ME!!!!

To the tune of Winter Wonderland .......

Alarm bells ringing
Are you listening
In the yard
Fog is glistening
A beautiful sight
Red lights flashing so bright
Walking in my smoky wonderland

Cooking with Nancy has become an adventure in itself.  I should start another blog.  True, I only cook turkey once a year, but you would think after 50 some years, I would finally get it right.  This was NOT the year.

It looked pretty enough ... all trussed up and stuffed with my mother's dressing recipe you see below.  That's the easy part.  It's the actual cooking that gets me every time.  Not fifteen minutes after putting it in my 325 degree oven, I smelled the smoke I always dread so much.  How can that be?  I just put the turkey in the oven???
I opened the door to rolling, boiling clouds of smoke hitting me in the face like a Rocky movie.  It fogged my glasses and I couldn't see a thing.  I slammed the door.  OH NO ... the fire alarm is sure to go off.  I hit the exhaust fan switch and turned the oven off.  I should have walked away, but noooo ... I opened the door again to another wave of rolling smoke clouds.

Good grief ... what did I do wrong?  In an instant I knew.  For the first time ever, I decided to place a rack under the turkey.  I never do that, but the turkey sticks to the pan and is hard to get out.  As the turkey heated up and the butter dripped into the now really really hot pan, it made instant smoke.

Don't ask me why, because I have no idea, but I quickly opened a can of chicken stock and dumped it in the pan.  The smoke instantly stopped as the doorbell rang and the alarm began wailing.  Surely THAT much smoke didn't escape my kitchen!!

Thankfully it was just my neighbor looking for some milk and not the Fire Department responding to my alarm, but you should have seen the look on her face when I opened the door and she saw all the smoke!!!  
I really tried not to fuss over the turkey, because I was cooking it the way the Sheriff did at the Elks Lodge (he does lots of cooking for us).  I checked the temperature.  Take it out at 160 they said and let it rest 20 minutes.  It was 45 minutes less than the instructions said and I stressed over it the entire time I was making potatoes.  What if it's not done?  Will I get sick?  Oh for heavens sake ... it will be just fine.  Except it wasn't.

I'm not sure if it was the turkey or the off brand butter or I just didn't cook it long enough.  The breast meat was tender and juicy but the flavor was bad ... something like what I like to call GREEN meat.  Grass fed beef tastes terrible ... corn fed is the only way to go.  Either this turkey was bad or it was grass fed and definitely NOT cooked enough.  
The potatoes and gravy made up for it.  Feeling bad that I didn't have a vegetable, which I could do without, I made a quick salad ... with kale, to counteract the gallon of gravy I planned to eat.
At least part of it was edible enough for me, but I'm sure glad I didn't have company.  What a disaster!!  It appeared the breast meat was done enough, but nothing else was.  I cut all the meat off and wrapped it in foil.  I'll stick it back in the oven for an hour or so tomorrow.  No use being THAT wasteful!!

Sorry you can't get that tune out of your head .... neither can I.



Hm hmm hmmm walking in a winter ..... oh stop it!!!!




Thursday, November 23, 2017

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!  It's that time of year when we eat until we are full and miserable, just able to roll over to the couch and fall fast asleep!!  I don't make resolutions because I have little to no self control, but this year I'm determined to STOP eating when I'm just "under" full.
This probably isn't going to help me in that light, but I spent yesterday making pecan pies just for the heck of it.  I was watching that usual Christmas Movie channel where they give you lots of food and decoration ideas.  

The main guest was one of the Southern Living Cookbook writers.  If you've ever purchased one of their magazines, you know the recipes are usually delicious.  I learned something very important.  PIE is all about the filling ... no one cares about the crust (although it SHOULD be edible).  Most all of those amazing pies in the magazine pictures are made with pre-made store-bought dough.  Who knew??

They just made my life MUCH easier.  The trick is to let Mr. Pillsbury sit on the counter and warm up before handling it ... and don't handle it very much.  So here's my first two specimens.  The only reason I'm making two is because the Karo syrup comes in a bottle for TWO, as do the pie shells and the pecans.  There's no use having this stuff sitting in the cabinet for a couple of years, which is how long it will be before I do this again!

Low and slow it said ... 325 degrees, covered loosely with foil for the first 30 minutes.  Remove the foil for another 25.  They were right ... the pies came out looking like someone ELSE baked them.
Then came the taste test.  The crust was perfectly cooked, even on the bottom ... and easily cut with a fork.  You usually need a knife with MY pies.  Honestly, I think the longer they sit, the better they are, but this was a mighty tasty piece of pie which I of course smothered in whipped cream.  Here's the thing though ... I love LOVE the filling, but the whole pecans, not so much.  I think next time (in two years or so) I will chop the pecans into smaller pieces and use less of them.  On the other hand, this will make a nice ending to my turkey dinner I will cook today.
While I was baking, the Tree Company began the huge task of removing my neighbor's mulberry tree that I tried to kill for so many years.  Shhhhh it's a secret!  At any rate, 9/10's of the tree hangs over the fence onto my property where my horses would eat it, making them sick.  I don't have horses any more, but I'm sure glad the tree is FINALLY going to die!!!
I was a little worried when they took out a huge section of my fence in order to get the branches over to the chipper on the other side, but I was a good girl and stayed inside with my mouth shut.  Look at the size of that thing compared to the backhoe/chipper.
It took about four hours, but was worth the wait.  Now you see it, now you don't!!!  YAY!!!!!  I'm so happy to see that gone before it damaged the fence.  Now if I can just get the guy on the other side to keep HIS trees trimmed up, I'll be in good shape!!
I hope you and yours have a great day ... remember everything you are thankful for and give your family hugs.  You may not need them, but maybe THEY do!!  I'm off to cook my turkey dinner!!




Wednesday, November 22, 2017

SPAM AND SCAM!

It's that time of year again when you get more than your fair share of SPAM in your email box.  It's just so irritating to have to deal with all this (insert bad word here), but unfortunately it's a sign of the Holiday times.

I know I've said this before, but I thought I would remind people again so they can remind THEIR friends and family.  Do NOT be taken in by these scam artists trying to get you to part with your hard earned money.  They have so many ways of cajoling, scaring and even blackmailing you into believing them.  Here are a few examples from MY inbox.

First off, I'm NOT a Sam's Club member and I don't want your GifBox.  Honestly, if you can't spell it right, I'm pretty sure you're a scammer.  That's the number one sign you are being swindled.  REAL companies know how to spell and they know good English.  You win prize big or confirm you want borrow is a big flashing red light.

Personal loans ... YAY ... free money.  Not quite, because if you open this email, for one you could get a virus that kills your computer (we don't have penicillin for that sort of thing) and for two, you will never see that money.  DON'T OPEN IT!!

There are always Russian Women Online looking for love, along with 9 million Asian women, Ukranian women ... you name it, they're looking for YOUR MONEY, not you!!  I have noticed recently they have changed to "Dating Agency" instead of (insert another bad word here) you all night long.  

All this is happening because somewhere along the line your email address was sold on the internet market, or was snatched from some server.  Speaking of snatched, I'm sure you heard about the Equifax disaster.  It seems to happen all the time now.  Don't be fooled by the email from Equifax asking you to confirm your information.  They would NEVER do that.
Your Walmart GiftBox ... at least they can spell ... isn't worth opening either.  Trust me, no big company is going to give you loads of cash or gifts for FREE.  It's better to just keep scrolling down. Here's another good one not shown here ... CONGRATULATIONS!!  Your loan of $5000 has been approved.   But I didn't apply for a loan you say ... it might be a scam.  Yes, yes it is.  DON'T fall for it and don't open it.  

If you really can't stand not to look, click on the email once, but do NOT open it.  You will see their name at the top with a small down arrow at the end.  If you carefully click that down arrow, it will show you the actual email address the message came from.  This Federal Tax Settlement email telling me to send money in order to avoid Notices of Intent to Close My Bank Account, is really from the address you see here.  That means it's one big scam.
IRS alert ... don't be fooled by that one either.  IRS won't email OR call you, so PLEASE don't send them any money.  You will only be filling someone's pockets overseas with your hard earned cash.

Winner Notification is another one I get a lot ... give us your bank account number and we will send you the money.  Yeah right ... don't let these guys get their hands in your pockets.

Here's another ... DONATION TO YOU.  Yup ... someone out of the blue just donated $10,000 to you because you are so sweet.  Just to be sure we have the right bank account, give us your number and $200 for shipping and handling, and we will send your money to you immediately.  NO, NO, NO!!!

By the way, I probably get 3 phone calls a day from the same type people.  I used to hang up, but now I've taken to discussing my major problem with them ... WHAT?  MY BANK ACCOUNT IS GOING TO BE FROZEN??  OH MY ... WHAT SHOULD I DO???  I do my very best to scam them for as long as I can.  At least they won't be making ten more phone calls while I'm on the line.  

Sometimes I even ask them why they have that job.  Did you just wake up one morning and think how much fun it would be to scam people out of their money?  Needless to say, that conversation never lasts long.

Speaking of phone calls, the one from your grandson overseas who got thrown in jail and needs bail money is also a scam.  A bad one that my friends mother got caught up in.  She said it even sounded like her grandson.  Luckily her daughter caught her before giving out her bank account information.  If you get a call like that, hang up and call a family member to verify your grandson's whereabouts.  I bet he's happy as a clam back in the U.S.

Here's one ... YOU'VE WON A NEW IPHONE!  In fact, if you've won ANYTHING in an email, it's a SCAM.  You might win a car wash, a pack of new wrenches or a bottle of booze at your local Elks lodge, but you're NOT going to win a new iPhone over the internet.  What you will win is the Award of the Year given out by those who wish to have YOUR money.  

One last email ... CONFIRMATION NEEDED.  You've either won the prize of the year or you have been selected (to be their next mark) ... maybe you've even won the lottery.  Don't fall for it and don't open that email.  If you are not personally familiar with the sender, just send it to the trash.

I have to admit there have been a few I have had to look at twice.  There's one out there from Wells Fargo that uses their exact logos ... trouble is, I don't have an account at Wells Fargo to confirm.  Same goes for Bank of America.  Never ever confirm ANY of your information through an email.  If you really think it might be legit, go directly to the bank and ask.  I'm pretty sure you'll find out it was a scam.

Don't let them win ... especially this Holiday season.  Answer the phone calls, have some fun acting like the poor little grandma who is distraught IRS is sending her to jail ... but DON'T open those emails, no matter WHAT they say!!!  Your holidays will be MUCH happier!!!




Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cooking For 100

Not your everyday task for sure, but I've done it three days out of four now.  This is Thanksgiving Cooking 101 for 100 people.

The Elks are not cheap ... they purchase Norbest boneless turkey breasts, about 10 pounds each.  That's $180 worth in the oven.  I learned on the first day that you never follow the instructions.  They come wrapped in foil.  We took that off, doused them with butter, seasoned them with Grill Mates mesquite seasoning (??), with a good sprinkle of lemon pepper.  In the oven they go, uncovered.

I should mention this is a convection oven ... one I would love to have at MY house.  Cook for 90 minutes at 350, then cover with foil and back in the oven they go for another hour.  That's when you start testing the temperature.  At 158-159, take those puppies out and let them rest for 20 minutes, still covered.  I swear folks ... it's the best, juiciest turkey I've ever eaten.
Finally, it's slicing time and the meat is packed in foil pans this time, because the people aren't coming here ... we are taking ALL this food to the Senior Center.  Talk about a logistics nightmare!!
While slicing and dicing is going on, we boiled water for Uncle Bens Cornbread Stuffing mix and Idaho potatoes.  I can deal with the stuffing because there's plenty of seasoning and as you can see, we add a considerable amount of butter.  Everything is better with butter!!  5-1/2 quarts of water and lots of stirring later and we have pretty tasty dressing.  Not as good as homemade, but not bad at all.
The potatoes on the other hand are not my favorite.  Even if they are grown in Idaho, they taste pretty bad to me.  Here's MY secret ... dump in a packet of powdered Ranch dressing mix.  It's amazing how just that little bit of spice changes the taste, kind of like sour cream.  Be ready for lots of stirring with a strong arm!!

Earlier in the morning I mixed up green beans along with Campbell's cream of mushroom soup and had it baking in the oven.  Topped with French's fried onions, they were exactly like what you cook for dinner.

Gravy is another hard one, especially when it comes from a package.  I made it according to the instructions, then dumped in what little turkey juice there was from those big pans.  Voila!!  Pretty tasty gravy if I do say so myself!!

You can't forget the sweet potatoes!  I drained the cans ... the same kind I buy for Jonathan ... and added lots of brown sugar and maple syrup.  Yummy!!!

Time to pack it up.  Three big pans of turkey, two of green beans, two of stuffing, two of potatoes, one of sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, rolls, butter, salad with dressing and for dessert ... pumpkin pie with whipped cream ... were all stuffed into the back of a car (seats down of course).  It was a feast to be sure.

Once at the Senior Center, I set up the buffet table with food and we were off to the races.  The Boy Scout Troop from our Lodge not only helped carry plates to the table (there's another huge room on the other side) but delivered many to-go boxes we prepared for those that could not come to the table.  
Once all the seniors were fed, the Scouts got to sit down with plates of food for themselves.  Unfortunately we ran out of mashed AND sweet potatoes, but there's not much better than turkey, stuffing and gravy!!
You may think I'm crazy for doing all this, but to be honest, it's MUCH better than sitting home on my butt doing nothing.  Where I live, being single isn't exactly a good thing.  Everyone does everything in pairs.   Being able to get out of the house and be around people is better than being alone, not counting the good feeling you get by helping so many.  

So here's my Thanksgiving request.  If you know any single people, please invite them to dinner.  Maybe there's someone in your RV park or your neighborhood.  Maybe it's someone in your family or someone you barely know.  Give them a call and invite them to share not only your dinner, but your time.  I promise they will love you for it!!

There's no more dinners for the next few weeks, but we'll do it all over again at Christmas.  I'm on a mission now ... I have to find one of those Norbest turkeys.  I want to cook one for myself this Christmas!!



Monday, November 20, 2017

My Plumbing Is Excellent

One of the things I was waiting for this week was to get my SECOND plumbing checkup.  Not me personally ... my plumbing is excellent ... but the house hot water unit.  Even though it was working, apparently my well water is pretty hard, creating problems with calcification inside the unit.

As with the first one, there was lots of banging in the attic.  He said he broke two wrenches (I can hardly believe that, but what do I know) so he had to cut the line in order to install the flush out valve.  That part didn't sound good at all, but at least it's guaranteed and he's licensed in case something should happen.  I think I'll turn off my water main when I leave for Tucson next year.

At long last, it was up and running.  Unfortunately, I didn't use THAT shower that night.  I trade off around the house so everything gets used.  When I got back to the original shower, my water flow was 1/3 what it used to be.  This is NOT good.  I called the Plumber.

He thought I just needed to remove the shower head and clean it out.  After thirty minutes of wrangling a too big wrench, I found he was right.  Lots of gunk came out.  I'm back to that shower this morning, so we'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, there were a couple of big Thanksgiving dinners the Elks provided for challenged adults and children.  It calls for an early arrival at the lodge since we bag up a full ham, potatoes, green beans and stuffing with all the fixings, to feed a family of four.  All 100 people got a bag in addition to the delicious turkey dinner we provided that day.

Clean up is a drag since there seems to be as much food on the floor as the tables.  No matter, they are very appreciative with every single person saying thank you.  That's a first!!
In between all that, the guy on the far left in the above picture is Mark ... the one who volunteered to fix my diesel truck.  He's a retired fireman and can build a house or a car ... you pick.  That's pretty handy, for sure!!  He stopped by with some little rubber seals to see if that would fix my truck.  

The dealership wanted to replace the entire unit for $450.  Mark wanted to replace the seals only ($15) that were allowing air into the fuel line.  In twenty minutes he was done ... the truck started and I was saying hallelujahs!!  I've got my truck back.  Yes the bottom seals should probably be replaced too, but they will have to wait until after the holidays.  

Next up was the Challenged Children's Bingo.   It again required an early arrival (I'm beginning to feel like I'm back working) in order to fill another 120 bags with donated items like candy bars, cookies, chips, apples, bananas, oatmeal bars ... lots of goodies, including a box of my Halloween candy.

The kids arrived at 10:00 and played a simple version of Bingo for two hours.  If they get a Bingo, they pick a toy from three huge tables.  They will continue with the same card until the next person wins, and so on.  If you didn't win, you STILL get to pick a prize before they hand out the next card.  

It's a madhouse!!  In the meantime, the volunteer Bingo crew barbecues hamburgers on the outside grill and hot dogs on the inside, along with all the fixings, some chips and finally a cup of chili.  Lucky for them, I didn't cook this time, I set up the buffet line.
We had so many people we ran out of food, which is a first.  It was probably because I saw MANY kids coming through the line a second time!!  It's lots of hard work, but worth it in the end when practically every single one comes and gives you a big hug!!  Nancy's bad ... that's how I got sick last year, so this year I hid in the kitchen!!

SO ... because I'm a glutton for punishment, I'm off again this morning to the Elks Lodge where we will cook another full Thanksgiving dinner for 100 Seniors from the Living Facility several blocks away.  This cooking I can do ... it's mostly boil the water and stir in a packet.  After the first dinner, I've figured ways to make it much more palatable ... like a packet of Ranch dressing mix in the potatoes and (roasted in the oven) turkey  juice in the gravy.  They DO buy high dollar food, but it's still from a box and needs a little help.

Turkey, potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, rolls, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie will be delivered at 4:30 to their facility, where we will serve those who can come to the central room and deliver to those who cannot.  All of these dinners are paid for by the Elks Lodge.  We will do it all again (with a couple extra meals added in) just before Christmas.

Then there's Bingo again tomorrow night.  It's okay, in spite of the problematic people, there's always several who come and tell you how happy you make them while giving you a big hug.  Besides getting me out of the house, THAT'S hard not to enjoy.





Sunday, November 19, 2017

I'm FLOCKED!!

Many moon ago, I opted for a "fake" Christmas tree.  The real ones, although they smelled wonderful, left a mess of pine needles and pitch to vacuum up for the next six months.  I got a big beautiful put-it-together tree 9' tall and 6' wide instead.

Over the years, that wonderful tree began to shed it's pine needles too, not to mention how hard it was to secure each and every branch before hanging my own 18 boxes of lights.  In fact, it's so much trouble that I haven't set it up in years since no one would see it but me.

That's when I saw the television ad for Balsam Hill trees.  My ex-in-law-sister has several in her house and she's a really bad influence.  Flocked and decorated like they belong in Time Square, I wanted a tree like hers.  The price tag however, was more than over the moon, it was in another galaxy!!

After searching and searching, I finally found this beauty, 9' tall and only 4-1/2' wide ON SALE!!  Wasn't I shocked when it arrived at my door three days early ... a box so big I could hardly drag it through my door.
It's PRE-LIT, meaning the lights are actually built in to the branches.  No more figuring out what branch goes where ... just flip them down and set it up.  Easy Peasy!!  Yeah right ... except that each piece weighed a ton and I had a hard time getting it together.  Hanging off the top of a ladder trying to get the top section on wasn't in the instructions.
By the time I got two sections up, I had more flocking on the floor and myself than on the tree.  This stuff is insidious.  It sticks to everything like socks in a hot dryer.  The static electricity was a sight to behold.
At long last, it was together, but two sections of lights were not working.  Spread out the branches it said ... FLUFF them up!!  Once you do that, there's no way to see where the light connections ARE, let along see the color tabs to match them up.  

After thirty minutes of crawling underneath with a flashlight, I finally found one connection to make.  I came out looking just as flocked as the tree.  I never could find the second one, so one layer of the tree is not lit.  It's probably a fuse or something ... green plastic of course, so it's truly invisible.
I finally called UNCLE and sat down to enjoy the lights.  I didn't stay there long however, since I had half the house to vacuum.  Then came the second problem ... all that flocking stuck to the inside of the vacuum head where static electricity was the name of the game.  Every time I turned the machine off, a pile of white snow was left on the floor.  This was SUCH a bad idea!!
And it's not even Thanksgiving yet!!  The thing is, if I'm going to have to do THIS much work every year, I'm putting this baby up in October so I can enjoy it for at LEAST two full months.  Maybe I'll be the Grinch for Halloween!!

All lit up, it really IS very beautiful.  Cooper loves it too ... there's another rug on the floor he can use to play with his ball!!




Saturday, November 18, 2017

NO Competition Here

Aren't they beautiful?  I thought so, but these aren't mine, as I'm sure you guessed.  This is what they were SUPPOSED to look like.  This cookie decorating is highly overrated and WAY too much work.  I quickly discovered I do not have small enough tips to end up with results like these.
I also didn't have a clue about the consistency required, even though I watched several You-Tube videos.  Something between toothpaste and Karo syrup didn't compute for me.  The next big discovery was I really required at least TWO boxes of frosting.  One box you make thin for flooding the big spaces and one you keep thick for decorating.  These were all I completed.
I was laughing so hard when I tried the Santa that I gave up.  I thinned the frosting with a little water, but forgot I had already used about half.  Yup ... TOO thin.  It ran all over the countertop before I could get my hair dryer going to dry the edges.  When I tried to cover the Santa, it ran right out the tip and down my fingers to the floor!

Once the white was sort of under control, I let it dry while I tried to develop skin color.  The first try was too red, the second try too GREEN.  I suppose I could have passed them off as Grinch cookies, but NO, I went for the NUDE color.  Unfortunately, it ended up closer to dark skin, so I figured to be politically correct and use it, but I couldn't stop laughing!!  I think he looks like a Yeti!!

I'm now OUT of frosting and can't finish the hat ... or anything else for that matter.  As simple as these look, first tries should be with a MUCH simpler design and maybe only TWO colors.  I'm pretty sure the bakeries around here don't have to worry about competition from ME!
I'm going back to playing ball with Cooper ... something I'm much more adept at.  Not saying I won't decorate cookies again, when I find a round cookie cutter and a very simple pattern.  
Speaking of which, guess who is under my feet as I type, pushing the ball to me with his nose.  Who could resist that cutest of cute faces!!!