Friday, November 30, 2018

A Cooking Frenzy

It's pretty sad when the weatherman can't figure out if it's raining or not.  I mean really, all you have to do is step outside to find it pouring.  Here's the question mark I discovered a couple of days ago.  It's BAAAAACCCKK!!
With rain coming down in buckets and nothing on television but Christmas Movies, I decided to whip up a couple of dishes I've been wanting to try.  While at the cooking class making rice pudding, which took something like an hour of stirring the pot on the stove, someone mentioned OVEN risotto.  

A little history first ....  our ranch basically went under when the cattle market bombed in the late 60's.  You see when you sell cattle at 35 cents a pound and you paid 50 cents a pound, then spent all summer feeding them, you go broke.  We weren't the only ones.

We had a neighbor who insisted we could grow rice, selling it directly to Russia.  That's right, Russia.  Heck, if it will save the ranch, why not?  And save the ranch it did, as those big payments were made right on time.  Not only that, but we basically ate rice three times a day.  It was cheap food!!

Then along came the government who said we couldn't sell to Russia any more.  They actually made it against the law.  Luckily we hooked up with another processor who had direct markets in Japan.  Funny thing about Japan ... they will only purchase a particular type of rice.  Our processor developed his own strain, one they loved and we were back in business.

As with all things commercial and overseas, that market finally dried up.  We all went to work outside the ranch selling real estate, life insurance and working for the County.  It was the end of ranch life as we knew it.  In the meantime, I had become addicted to rice.  I LOVE the stuff!!

After checking out Ina Garten's recipe for oven risotto, I decided to give it a shot.  Easy peasy.  Put rice and chicken broth in a cast iron pot and put it in the oven for 45 minutes.  Take it out, stir in parmesan cheese, salt, another cup of broth and peas or mushrooms, or maybe both and there you have it.  Risotto.  

It came out perfectly cooked and I didn't have to stir it for hours.  That's when I discovered I really don't like risotto.  It lost all of it's "tooth".  It was also WAAAY too salty.  Definitely leave out the salt.
Now, what to do with that last cup of arborio rice.  How about making rice pudding like at the cooking school?  This I actually did have to stir on the stovetop for about 30 minutes.  A real pain in the patoo ... but it was worth it.  Even when I used 2% milk (in spite of chastising by the Chef), it tasted wonderful ..... when it was first cooked.  Later on, not so much.  The nice texture was completely gone when it cooled.
It was still raining as I wandered around the kitchen bored to tears, trying to come up with something else I could cook.  I was on a roll.  How about Christmas fudge??  I'm not really a fudge eater ... that's too much sugar even for me ... but figured I could take it to Bingo.  They will eat anything!

I have the simplest recipe ever ... two ingredients!!  I'll show you that one tomorrow.

In the meantime, it's still raining and I'm SO sorry to say I think I'm getting sick.  That darn girl at Bingo came two weeks in a row, sick as could be, coughing and hacking all around us without covering her mouth.  I was so mad I told her to GO HOME!!  It was too late.

This morning I have a sore throat and runny nose, which doesn't bode well for me.  I truly thought I might slip by again this year without being sick at Christmas.  I'll be on the couch after gargling everything caustic I can think of to cure this malady.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

The Pitfalls Of Internet Shopping

I guess you could say I've become lazy.  Who would have thought thirty years ago that you would be able to shop from your home and have things shipped right to your front door.  I fought it for years because I LOVE shopping!!  Macy's, Pier One, Penneys, Sees Candy (for the free samples) ... I would spend hours passing the time just looking.  Of course it was rather hard on my checkbook.

Nowadays I save money by going on-line.  Sort of!  Sometimes ..... okay, maybe not.  I'm betting the price of things may actually be cheaper in the store than on the internet.  The thing is, if you shop with your fingers, you get to see hundreds more stores with MUCH more merchandise and save fuel to boot.  Sometimes that can get me in trouble.

It works VERY well for the puppies.  They get dog food and treats on a regular basis.  If you didn't know, is owned by PetSmart, so they are NOT putting themselves out of business as advertised around the country.

This time I price checked everything I was going to buy, and sure enough, Chewy was a tad bit cheaper.  Buy enough .... I think it was $50 .... and shipping is free, usually within two days.  I can't believe how fast they are.  Add to that the savings of fuel at $4.00 a gallon and it's a win-win for me.  Jessie got her new bed yesterday and loves it!!  That's the GOOD part of internet shopping.
On the other hand, and there is ALWAYS an other hand, some of the things I want only come in mega size packages.  At the pie cooking class, we used small 6" tins for baking take-home pies.  How perfect for me, being the only human in my house.  I need some of those!!

I searched the internet and found exactly what I wanted.  They even had little plastic lids.  PERFECT!  They came about a week later.  Unfortunately, although I honestly DID check the size, they are tiny tiny miniature 4" pans, barely large enough for two bites.  RATS!!  It will cost me more to send them back than the cost of the pans.  Guess I'm stuck with them.

Back to searching for LARGER pans, this time I paid particular attention to the details.  They measured 6" across.  I ordered them for somewhere in the neighborhood of $15.  Wasn't I surprised when they showed up at my door and I now have FIFTY of them.  FIFTY!!!  How am I every going to use up FIFTY PIE TINS?  They will be stacked in my cupboard forever!  It couldn't get worse.
WRONG .... it really CAN get worse when you discover the many pitfalls of internet shopping.  At the same pie class, Chef used a small peel (a long narrow board) to move the pies round in the oven and to remove them without getting burned.  I NEED ONE!!  I'm tired of sticking my dirty hot pads into the food I'm removing from the oven.

I searched and searched the internet, using up gobs of pterodactyls, or whatever they are called, until I found the PERFECT one!!  It was about 4 inches wide and 18 inches long.  I hit the ORDER button.  Shipping on this one took almost two weeks.  Maybe they had to go cut down a tree and sand it to perfection.

The box finally arrived yesterday.  Hmmmm that's a HUGE box!!  I opened one end to be faced with the handle standing at waist height.  Noooooo ..... this can't be!  Sure enough, this monster is ten inches wide and over 36 inches tall.  There is absolutely no WAY I can use this half inch thick chunk of lumber to slide underneath pies in the oven.

How disappointing to be faced with the pitfalls of internet shopping.  Maybe I can donate it to my local Pizza Factory.  Oh wait .... it might make a good chunk of lumber to put under the rig for leveling!!  Next time I'll double and triple check the size of things I order.
I did forget to mention the other day, on my return trip from the town that actually has stores to shop in, I took a detour over to the big city of Hilmar ... Dairy Capital of Central California.  It's not far off the freeway and has the best place EVER to stop.  Hilmar Cheese is the name and cheese is their game.  In fact, all those commercials for Sargento?  It's Hilmar Cheese they are selling.  

At any rate, they have a great little restaurant and an amazing variety of great cheese, wine and anything appetizer-like.  Bus tours even stop here for lunch and shopping.  I had the PPG sandwich.  Piglet Pretzel Griller ... and boy was it worth every penny (maybe $10).  They even served it with an entire pear, sliced to perfection.  Who does that?  The crispest, coldest most fabulous pear I've ever eaten.  

They have plenty of parking for big rigs, so if you're in the area, stop in for a great lunch.
So it's back to Christmas shopping on the internet.  Maybe I'll just buy gift cards.  It's SO much easier ... no returns, it fits everyone and I don't have to triple check the SIZE!!  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

The Magic Kingdom and Hoop Skirts

It's hard to sleep in when you've got a puppy jumping up and down on your back, making the cutest little growling sounds EVER!!  I laugh and it's all over.  It was a dreary, overcast, foggy kind of day, leaving me to contemplate why I keep eating so much I'm miserable.  My entire system is out of whack, leaving me stationary on the couch.
Until I got my shipment at the front door.  It's SO nice to get packages delivered by the Post Office since they finally figured out I wasn't going to go away!!  Not the really grand reveal I was wanting, but THIS is the reason for the hoop skirt.  I'm sorry, but there's no wedding, since there's no MAN in the picture.

What there IS going to be is a trip to Utah for the 150th Anniversary of the Transcontinental Railroad, one of the most life altering events in history.  If you're going to go to such an event, you might as well join the party.  Rather hard to see in this terrible selfie, I actually found a company in Washington State that makes these theatrical gowns for probably less than I could buy the material.

Unfortunately this one is too large ... one of the problems of shopping on-line.  There's another one on it's way to replace it.  So yup ... I'll be heading out with the Golden Spike Railroad group to Utah next year for the celebration.  I'm pretty excited!!
All of a sudden it dawned on me I didn't know where Cooper was.  I don't even know how long he was missing from the couch.  That's so unlike him.  I wandered the house, calling his name.  He never comes when you call his name, so I tried shaking the snack bag.  Nothing.  

I finally located him sitting here at the back door.  It seems he was sulking because I wasn't playing the ball game.  After about 20 minutes, I finally asked if he wanted to play the ball game and he came running.  That's his new name now .... Ball Game.
I tried to patiently wait for 3:00 when it was time to head on down to the Magic Kingdom's Knights of the Round Table Room where we all meet around ... you guessed it ... the round tables.  I had my usual coke while we listened to corny jokes from the Court Jester.  It's good to laugh before the onslaught of peasants.

At 4:15 I ascended the grand staircase to find the Castle Lawyer was not there and no one had set up the table.  I quickly gathered supplies and began to count the bank.  Luckily for me, one of the Knights came over to help count cards as the peasants flooded the corridor.  It's always chaos for two hours straight.

Right off the bat, one of our volunteers who plays, had three extra cards.  I know ... they stick together is the most common excuse.  We know this game, which is why we count.  Funny, it happens a LOT!!  In fact, it happened to one lady FOUR times.  She told me she only had four sheets.  I counted.  She had SEVEN!!  See what they try to do??  You have to be on guard every second.  It happened several more times throughout the night.

At long last it was time to head home.  I was exhausted, so I crashed on the couch for a few minutes with the puppies.  Just look at this face!!
One more interesting thing happened.  I never check the weather unless I'm heading out in the RV.  Last night, I looked to see if it was going to rain.  My weather station had a big blue question mark right in the middle.  What??  They are actually admitting they have no clue what the weather is going to be?  I'm sorry I didn't take a picture.  It was epic!!

The good news is they predict rain for the next 7 out of 8 days and boy do we need it!!  Except now I have to double check that leak in the back slide of my rig.  I just can't seem to figure out where the water is coming from.  A big piece of plastic may be required for the time being.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


Do you have your Christmas shopping done?  I know some very organized people who are already working on Christmas 2019.  I'm not one of them.  In fact, it just dawned on me that I have FIVE presents to buy and I haven't even thought about it, let alone started to look.

I always pass on Black Friday.  It's that day when all the retailers do their absolute best to make you think you are getting a good deal, all the while charging you MORE for what you are buying.  Sure, there are one or two 365 inch televisions for $50, but those are the exceptions to suck you in.

Just skip the madness and do your shopping on-line on CYBER MONDAY from the comfort of your home!!  Use up those 75% discounts you've been finding in your email box.  Take Shutterfly for example.  I got a note that I was qualified to get 50% off .. take an extra 25% off of THAT ... WOW how could I resist?  Resist I did though when I found out the shipping costs were killer.  Course I could buy $50 worth and get free shipping.

I think it was much nicer in the "old" days when the only advertisement was on the window as you walked in the store.  Today we are bombarded right and left!!
I have a few of those plug-in-the-wall smelly things from Bath and Body that I just love.  What better time to order some than when their big sale is on.  I checked on-line to find the SALE price at $7.00 each.  Hmmm those are getting rather expensive.  Maybe I'll find something else.

Instead of Cyber shopping, I decided to drive to the next town where they actually HAVE stores and pick up some white chocolate for a cheesecake.  Surprise!!   Right next door is a Bath and Body store.  Maybe I'll check them out.

So here's the deal .... in the STORE, the fabulous sale price was $4.79 each, versus the ON-LINE Cyber Monday sale price of $7.  Yup ... that Cyber Monday is the best deal ever!!  I bought four from the store.  Surprisingly, there were only two other shoppers.
Of course the same thing happens in the store on Black Friday.  They up the price 100% before giving you a HUGE 50% discount.  At least you feel good about spending your money.  It's all in the advertising.

So I better get my act in gear and get my Christmas shopping done, since it all has to be mailed to it's final destination.  Maybe after my afternoon nap!!!

As promised, here's the cheesy creamed corn casserole I had for Thanksgiving.  Super simple!

1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn
1 (14 oz) can creamed corn 
1 (8 oz) box corn muffin mix
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Mix it all together and place in greased 8-9" square casserole dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45-55 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Sprinkle with more cheese and increase temperature to 400 for 5-10 minutes.

Don't worry about the calories, Thanksgiving is Pre-Black-Friday Day, resulting in 75% less calories in everything you eat!!

Monday, November 26, 2018

Banking Woes .....

I'm sure everyone has a story to tell about their bank.  Especially RV'ers who are on the road a good portion of the year and rely on on-line banking services.  I held out for a very long time before I actually believed I wouldn't lose all my money by using the internet instead of going in person.

I finally relented and signed up with my local branch using Bill Pay.  Are they all the same??   So far (knock on wood) I haven't had any major problems with not one, but TWO different bank accounts.  Feeling pretty smug, I added a third.
My rationalization was that it would be easier to have three separate banks to account for things like rentals and health insurance payments.  All was going swimmingly well when all of a sudden I got an email saying one bank was going to UPDATE their entire program.

Ohhhhhhh that doesn't sound good.  They advised I make copies of everything, including my last five or six statements.  It all went okay until I realized a month later that my health insurance payments were not being processed.

I spent a couple of hours on the phone with both the Supplemental Insurance Company and my banks ... that's plural because the account decided NOT to accept the automatic deposit from the OTHER bank.

Three days and multiple phone calls, not to mention trips to the bank and it was finally cleared up.  Money goes in and money goes out.  I could finally relax.

Or maybe NOT!!!  About that time I got ANOTHER email from my second bank saying I should copy everything, including all my Payees because they were going to upgrade their Bill Pay program.  OH NO ..... that doesn't sound good at ALL.

This was my BIG account with many, many payees.  In order to copy all of that info, it would have taken me at least an entire ream of paper and hours at the computer.  I finally figured out how to copy just the names, hoping only a few might be missing after the turnover.

Boy was I wrong.  Absolutely every single Payee disappeared.  By the time I figured out how to even USE the new program, I discovered both of my biggie payments ..... house and RV ..... had not been paid.  YIKES!!!

Luckily, my house payment people were nice as could be, giving me an extra 20 days to get a check to them.  My Bank of America people could have cared less.  I was LATE!!  To make it even worse, B of A had decided to go paperless without telling me.

That's when something really weird happened.  I couldn't find ANY of the paperwork from where I had paid bills for the last six months.  What the heck?  Where did it go?  Was I sleep walking and threw it all away?  I searched for hours and found only the house payment bills.

Almost eight hours later, after going on-line to each and every account I have, recording account numbers and mailing addresses, I was able to set up a minimal version of Bill Pay.  Another hour trying to figure out how to make automatic payments and I was finally comfortable enough with the thought everyone was going to get paid.

I have absolutely NO faith that is going to happen however.  I'll be checking constantly for the next couple of months to be sure all is going according to plan.  There is ONE improvement with their new plan .... they can send you an email when your payment has been made.  I checked the box for my major expense payees.  Hopefully I can rest easy ... at least until next month!!

In other exiting news, do you know what this is?  It arrived yesterday and I'm super excited.  It's a whole new adventure ... well maybe.  I'm not sure if I'll be brave enough, but I'm going to give it a shot.
There is more coming that will hide this entirely.

By the way, only 28 more days and it's Christmas!!  Do you have your shopping done??????

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Have You Thrown YOUR Lettuce Away?????

I'm big on salad.  During the summer, I actually have two small salads every day.  In the winter, I opt for salad at lunch.  All that chopping and hacking isn't my idea of fun, so I buy the bagged kind.  Chopped Caesar salad or some kind of Asian variety fits the bill, with all the ingredients including dressing, right in the bag.

What an invention.  Someone figured out how to charge us probably twice the cost for half the ingredients.  Everything was hunky dory until I heard the latest news.  THROW AWAY YOUR LETTUCE.  

There have been other scares about foods that come from Mexico, but never ever (that I can remember) has the CDC (Center for Disease Control) told everyone to throw away every shred of romaine lettuce.  It doesn't matter if it's a head of lettuce like pictured here, or the shredded kind in my bag-o-salad.

Apparently there is a bad variety of E. coli bacteria present that is actually killing people.  I have to admit about two weeks ago I did get very sick after eating salad at two meals, but I never thought it was because of the lettuce.  I've been hanging on to two bags, hoping the CDC will figure out the source.
I guess that's not going to happen any time soon, and now my bag-o-salads are wet and slimy inside.  Reluctantly, I'm throwing out $7.99.  I'm going to miss that staple part of my diet.  I guess I better look into cabbage salads.  If you haven't done it, THROW AWAY your romaine lettuce.

If you would like to have a replacement for that lettuce and happen to be in Meridian Idaho, a suburb of Boise, stop in at this bakery.  It has a rather weird name .. Cinn-Nom-Nom Bakery ... and has just opened.  My nephew's wife (does that make her my niece or my niece-in-law?) started this enterprise by buying up all the bakery equipment she could find on E-Bay and stashing it in their garage.

I give her credit for doing much of the work herself and going headlong into an endeavor that everyone has told her won't work, especially when you have no money.  So maybe if all our friends and relatives show up and buy goodies, it will be a success.  At least she doesn't have the propensity to burn her pies like me.  They serve breakfast and lunch items, pastries, cinnamon rolls, cakes, pies, cheesecakes and cookies. 
In other exciting news .... I'm sure everyone our age knows what this is.  Do you have one in your closet?  Yeah, me too.  I found TWO ... a shock ... on the top shelf of my laundry room.  I searched them out because the Cooking School is having a class on ..... you guessed it ..... FONDUE.  

No one does this any more, but I thought it might be fun at the RV rally in January.  I have a couple of recipes, but would MUCH rather try someone else's first.  Hopefully there is a cancellation and I can get into the class.  Otherwise, it's just going to be me experimenting with the cheese.  Anyone have a trusted recipe?
I went for a nice walk yesterday.  The rain quit and I ran out of excuses.  When I got back, I was disappointed to see I had only gone .79 miles.  Apparently two Thanksgiving dinners in a row set me back.  I've never felt quite this bad after overeating and I didn't even TOUCH a salad.  

That's when I found out my credit union, who decided to switch to a new Bill Pay program, erased absolutely everything in my account, including the automatic payments for little things like my house and RV.  I'll let you know how that turns out as soon as I can get someone on the phone.

Okay .. okay ... I'm going for a LONGER walk.  Thanks for the "push" ..  ;-)

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Rain, Glorious Rain!!

At long last, California is getting a little rain.  Definitely not LOTS of rain like Arizona, but three days of light rains and mist.  Probably not enough to help with the fires, but enough for me to finally turn my sprinklers off.

It has been just enough to clear the air of the horrible smell of fire, making it breathable again.  It was getting so bad I was almost on the verge of wearing a mask.

To add to that, for which I am VERY thankful, it means the temperatures have risen from 36 to nighttime lows of 65 with NO heat required.  My PG&E bill will be as low as it goes.  Of course all this baking I've been doing will NOT help.

Two more pies were in the works yesterday ... another apple pie tart and this pumpkin, made from scratch.  Well almost.  It's not like I went out and picked a pumpkin or anything.  For some strange reason I found a can of plain pumpkin that wasn't outdated, languishing in my cupboard.  I had all the spices and figured I would give it a shot.

My crust is a little wonkey where I smashed it while pouring the filling in the pan, which was already in the oven, but I didn't care.  The most important part looked just fine.
Dinner was at 4:00.  I arrived right on time.  I love my friend Diane, but her cooking skills (believe it or not) are a tad bit lower on the scale than mine.  The only thing done was the turkey.  I tried to help by opening all the cans on her counter, but the can opener defied my task at every turn ... literally.  I'm buying them a new can opener for Christmas!!
Loaded with marshmallows, the sweet potatoes went in first, followed by a green bean casserole.  The stuffing "box" on the counter required cooked celery and onions, which we quickly dispatched.  Since Diane never makes gravy, I dumped the juice from the turkey into a pan, added a few small pieces of meat for flavor and whipped up a rue.  Instant gravy ... I was just praying it did NOT taste like flour.

In between tasks, Mr. B (Braden) wanted a space ship, but was not allowed to use scissors.  Everyone was too busy, so I borrowed a little pocket knife and went to work on his box, after he drew on exactly where he wanted me to cut.  It took four times to get the head hole large enough.
Suddenly, he turned into Buzz Lightyear, flying around the living room!!  There weren't going to be any bad guys interrupting OUR turkey dinner!!  Shhh don't tell anyone, but he's going to Disneyland VERY soon where he'll get to see Buzz in person!!
As usual, try as I might to take the smallest portions, I was stuffed to the brim and miserable in no time.  I hate it when I do that!!  Then it was dessert time.  I had two of the smallest slices, but it was overload city.  The pumpkin pie was delicious.  The apple tart was even better.  Together, they were terrible.  Note to self ... next time just pick one!!

I rolled myself out to my truck, drove home and rolled over to the couch where I sat until I fell asleep.  This morning I'm just as miserable as I was last night.  It's time to get out and walk it off, except wait ....... it's raining.  It's as good an excuse as can be to remain on the couch!!

I'm happy to report, after hitting the test and reset button four times on the garage GFI, the outside security lights came on.  No reason to set the alarm, then wake everyone up at 4:30 when I let the dogs out.

As for Black Friday, I missed it.  Darn.  No walking a mile across the parking lot and fighting with people over $10 sale items that normally sell for $5.  No worries ..... Cyber Monday is almost here!!!

Friday, November 23, 2018

Gunshots And Turkey Day!!

A couple days ago, I was sitting in front of the fire enjoying the company of my puppies, when .........

Suddenly there was a CRACK!!  I instantly knew it was a gunshot.  You might remember a couple years ago when a man was shot about 25 feet from my bedroom window.  I actually live in a very nice neighborhood.  This isn't drug city like across town, so I was pretty shocked to hear it.

I raced to the other side of the house, grabbed my gun and snuck out the back door, being quiet as a mouse.  I saw some vehicle lights in the neighbor's yard and heard some voices, but couldn't make out what they were saying.  The goats that live there were bawling.  WHAT?  Someone is shooting the neighbor's goats??

Another shot rang out in the pitch black night.  I ducked behind my barbecue and waited.  If anyone came in my back yard, they were a goner!!!  When I heard the THIRD shot, I grabbed my phone to call 911, my heart beating in my throat.

As I dialed, I was finally was able to understand the voices.  Apparently they were butchering three goats as payment for something.  The killers are allowed to use guns to dispatch them.  How sad is that?  Nice that they let their neighbors know.  I went back in the house, thankful that there was no random shooting going on.  I like excitement, but I can do without THAT variety!

I like the kind that involves cooking.  You never know what's going to come out of my kitchen!!  With the turkey stashed in the oven, the one from Bingo (Target variety ... cheap cheap), I relaxed with a glass of White Zinfandel.  My rare occasion of a glass of wine is becoming more prevalent.
I checked on the bird only to see indications it was done an hour early.  NOOOOOOO ...... I quickly threw together the cheesy corn casserole and covered it with crunchy onions.  This takes an hour to bake, so I turned the turkey down a tad.
One of the things I really CAN make, are mashed potatoes.  No surprises there!!  I finally removed the turkey and made gravy.  There are no turkey pictures because it looked terrible.  The worst I've ever cooked.  I'm telling everyone it's Tar-Ges fault!  (That's French for Target).
At long last, it all came together.  That terrible looking turkey was juicy and done to perfection.  I guess looks aren't everything.  The corn casserole (simply cornbread mix, canned corn, creamed corn and an egg) was delicious.  It tasted so much like fresh corn, I couldn't believe it.  It made me think of early Indian Thanksgivings.

Surprised at my beautiful table setting?  Don't be.  The pretty napkin was just for the picture.
I actually sat at the table, and enjoyed every bite.  Then it was cleanup time.  Ugh ... I hate that part.  I think it took longer to clean up than to bake the casserole.  I did my impression of a bump on a log for the next two hours, before trying the pie.

I peeled off the burned pecans, cut a slice and smothered it in whipped cream.  Someone said brûlée is popular in France.  That's code for mostly burned.  They must be crazy, because all I could taste was "terrible".  I might be able to get away with eating the very center.  The rest is going in the cemetery.
Today is my second celebration with friends and their family, where I am to provide what else ..... pies!!  This time I'll use my regular oven and hope for a duplicate of that wonderful apple pie I created last week.  Oh ..... and a pumpkin pie.  SHOULD be easy peasy!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2018



I'm thankful for lots of things, and I'm sure you are too.  This morning in particular, you should be thankful you don't live next to me.  My outside lights refused to work last night.  I suspect it's the GFI in the garage.  Wandering outside in the dark has never been my favorite thing to do.  There are boogie men out there.

As a kid, I had to feed the horses, which meant going about 500 yards past the corrals and big scary trees, turning on lights here and there so I could see.  Sometimes they didn't turn on and I was always scared to be in the dark.  

That being said, I decided NOT to try and fix them, but to just set my alarm in case anyone decided to snoop around.  I put a BIG sign on the door that said ALARM so I wouldn't forget to turn it off before letting the dogs out.  

No one got to sleep in THIS morning at 4:30 as the siren screamed louder than ever until I ran to the panel.  Sorry neighbors ..... (not really, considering the past loud music and gun shots ... oh wait, I haven't told you about that yet!!)
I'm thankful for a nice warm house to live in, I'm thankful for my readers and friends, and I'm thankful for the puppies.  At the end of today, I hope I'm thankful for a nice dinner that looks something like this.
So far however, I'm batting a big ZERO!!  See this beautiful pecan pie I made yesterday?  It was going to be the best I've ever made.  My friends were going to be SO impressed, or so I thought.  Never count your chickens .........
I decided to bake it in the Breville oven.  That was my first mistake.  After 30 minutes, I put a special cover over the crust to keep it from burning.  At 45 minutes it still was way too soft in the middle.  I set it for five more minutes ..... JUST FIVE MINUTES ..... and it burned.  

Look at that beautiful crust .... and the pretty design ... all for naught.  Big sigh .......  even when I think I've got it made, something rears up and bites me.  The good news, if there is any, is that this pie doesn't HAVE to go with me tomorrow to my friend's house.  It COULD have been the perfect ending to MY perfect turkey dinner this afternoon.  So much for perfect!!
So it's on to cooking the turkey, a corn casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy.  In the meantime, I'll try to figure out why the lights are not working and make my ALARM sign at least 12 inches high.  

I hope you all have a wonderful fun filled day and end up with tummies full of a perfect turkey dinner.

About those gun shots?  Wait until you hear THAT story ..... tomorrow!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Out With The Old, In With The New

I have finally found the secret to Thanksgiving shopping at the grocery store.  Go on a Tuesday morning.  Be there at 8:00 am.  It's completely quiet and I got everything I was looking for.  The best part was not waiting in line for 30 minutes AND I got a senior discount.  OORAH!!!

The REAL reason I went so early was so I could slip in a little nap before Bingo time.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out the way I planned.
Every few minutes, I would glance out the front door at the pumpkins.  This little sign fits me perfectly!  Somehow I missed the memo about late garbage pickup due to Veterans Day.  Am I missing something?  It seems like Veterans Day was two days before Thanksgiving.  

Out with the old and in with the new.  The pumpkins are now resting at peace in the garbage cans, a week before the next pickup.  My hand went through the bottom of the first one.  Yucky poo!!!!  It took a shovel to get it all in the bin.  They should be rotting VERY nicely by the next pickup day, attracting flies from miles around.
So here I am, perched on the couch just before hitting the grocery store, my kids fast asleep.
While on a Costco run ... the one where I was supposed to check out their ice cream, but completely forgot, I spotted almond flour.  It was used (in conjunction with regular flour) in three of the four pie crust recipes from the cooking class.  Apparently this is much better for you than regular flour.  Truthfully, I have no idea why, so I bought a bag just for testing.  

Maybe it's the lack of gluten?  I'm really not up on all that stuff.  Out with the old flour and in with the new ..... except I'm pretty sure this won't make good bread.  
I finally wandered off to the Elks Lodge around 2:30 for the gathering at the Castle watering hole.  I can't tell you how nice it is for me to walk into a room and know some people who welcome me with open arms.  I'm pretty much a shy bird.  If I didn't know anyone, I would walk in one door and right out the other.

Somehow in the hour I was there, I acquired an Agent and became a Trustee nomination.  It happened somewhere between the first and second glass of coke.  Out with the old and in with the new, except for that part when I'm in Arizona.  I even think I heard something about a plane ticket.  

The night got longer and longer.  I've never yawned so much in my life!!  S L O W was the word of the night as I fended off peasants demanding their change of $80 when I had already given it to them.  I finally asked "where is your receipt?"  

It happens every week.  They reach in their pocket for the receipt and find their change.  "Where's my red ticket"? (for the drawing every night for pull tabs where they can win maybe $1).  Look deeper in your pocket ..... whereupon they come up with the ticket.  

Trying to get out early, we counted all the cash and waited holding our breath.  RATS!!!  Not one, but FOUR winners of the last $150, meaning we had to make mountains of change.  That of course resulted in a complete recount of the entire cash box.

It's a good thing the Castle Lawyer was counting, because I was so sleepy I never would have gotten it right.  We wished everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and rushed out the door.  My bed never felt so good!!

Today I'm gathering up all my goodies to make a beautiful Thanksgiving dinner for one.  Well three actually, because the "kids" can have just a little turkey.  I'm celebrating on Friday with my adopted family, where I will take  .... wait for it ............. PIES!!  Wish me luck with the baking thing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Salt Blocks And Thick Air

I had to laugh when I saw this one on the internet.  People always look at me strangely when I photograph my food.  Who does that???  I could go into the blog explanation, but honesty, if you're not an RV'er (or related to one), blogs are a strange word and kind of hard to explain.
Not so hard to explain is this huge salt block.  When I was a kid, we used to put out salt blocks for the cattle and horses.  You have to make sure they have a balanced diet, as well as your kids.  

We would hide in the quonset hut, chipping off pieces that we mixed with molasses-soaked rolled barley.  Now you know my secret!!  We didn't die, so I guess there were no bad consequences.  

At any rate, this is a pink himalayan salt block.  Pink salt is the newest craze in the food industry.  It's been around for a long time, but few people actually eat it, preferring regular table salt.  I got hooked on it some time ago, so when I spotted this beauty at the cooking school, I was all over it.

Here's how it works.  Slice up pieces of fruit and vegetables and lay them on the block.  In a minute or two (no longer), pick up that piece and eat it.  You will be amazed at the flavor.  I don't salt things like tomatoes or watermelon, but place it on this block and it changes everything.

You can heat them up (very slowly) on the stove or in the oven and cook anything on them ... meat in particular.  They are terribly prone to breakage when heated, so I'll just use mine cold.
Want to hear the coolest thing?  You just wipe it down with a rag and let it sit.  Nothing grows or can live on this salt.  There's no contamination problem.  If you barbecue a lot, buy a really cheap rectangular pan at the Dollar Store and fill it up with crushed Himalayan salt you can buy at Winco.  Place it on the barbecue grate, lay your chicken directly on top and barbecue away.  I'm told it's the best chicken EVER.  I'll give it a try and let you know how it works.

In the meantime, try not to breathe.  AT ALL!!!  It seems the residue from the Northern fires has settled nicely into our little corner of the world and isn't going anywhere soon.  Alerts and warnings have been going off for the last few days, telling everyone to stay inside.  They are even on the verge of closing schools.
I tried to photograph it, but it really doesn't show up well.  It's thick and looks like fog.  In fact, it's so bad, it has obscured the sun almost every day, making it look even more like ground fog.  It's hard to go outside and not breathe.  You can instantly smell and feel why it's good to stay in the house.
Speaking of food pictures ..... remember that yummy corned beet that actually came out tender after 9 hours of cooking?  Here's the leftovers.  My all time favorite breakfast, corned beef hash.  My mom used to make it when I was a kid.  WONDERFUL stuff!!!  

Everyone smothered theirs with ketchup ... I ate mine plain.  Now that I know how to cook one, I'm definitely having this again!!
I'm trying my best to stay inside, but today I have to go shopping for Thanksgiving dinner at my friends house.  I've been asked to bring pies ... and that apple pie I just made is at the top of my list.  Oh ...... and of course it's BINGO night!!  

Monday, November 19, 2018

More Scandinavian Fare ....

The rest of the Scandinavian lunch we prepared was a little more edible in my book.  I've never been a fan of pickled anything.

Norwegian meatballs ... half beef, half pork with onion and nutmeg.  Throw in a few bread crumbs and you're done.  Simple ingredients seem to be the best.  Once both batches were cooked about halfway he set them aside.

That's when the "chef" (I use that word loosely here) in the group came over and ate one.  Uhmmm that was only HALF cooked my friend, as in raw in the middle.  Bet he won't do THAT again!  The REAL Chef made white gravy with the drippings, flour, chicken broth and a little milk, then dumped the meatballs back in the pan and simmered them until done.
Next up, Jansson's Temptation.  I LOVE potatoes, so when they asked me to peel and grate some russets, I was all over it.  That will be one more thing I can eat ... or so I thought.  Grate half in a casserole dish, cover with onions, then lay in an entire tin of anchovies.  I admit, I threw up a little right then.  

Why ruin such a great dish with gut-filled nasty tasting fish??  I spread them out, leaving a large corner empty, which I hoped to be the first to scoop out.  Over that, more potatoes, then a cup of cream.  Bake.  I said a little prayer that the fishy fish didn't bleed over to my little corner.

Next on the menu ..... tomato salmon.  More fish, but I was SURE this would be good eats.  Mix a tablespoon of tomato paste with a cube of butter and spread on the salmon before baking it in foil.  

At long last, lunch was served.  On the bottom you see another bread made with potatoes and flour, called Lefse.  It sounded kind of like potato pancakes, so I gave it a try.  Somehow the butter and sugar mixture on the lefse didn't quite go with the beautiful salmon next in line.  The meatballs looked delicious, followed by the not-so-tempting Temptation and more gravlax in case you didn't get enough the first time around.
As you can see, MY plate wasn't very full.  There WAS two whole beet slices there (I actually ate both), sitting next to Jansson's Temptation, which unfortunately for me had a HUGE piece of anchovy in it, spoiling the entire dish.  I ate it (literally holding my nose) and downed the last of my glass of wine.  The meatballs were yummy, as was the salmon and the rectangular piece of Tunn bread.
I forced down the sugar covered potato bread and cleaned my plate.  As I looked down the table, everyone else took small portions also, but they included pickled herring.  Just the thought gives me shivers.  There was one more thing on the table ... something called Aquavit.  

Here's the recipe.  Cheap vodka, one tablespoon of fennel seeds cracked and half a tablespoon of lemon juice.  Set it on the counter and shake it once a day for a total of three weeks.  At the end of that time, fill it to the top with MORE cheap vodka and let it sit for one week.  Serve it in cool little glasses.

I'm sorry to say I cannot tell you what it tasted like.  I'm doing good if I can get a glass of wine down.  That hard liquor is just not for me.  And so the Scandinavian lunch came to an end.
But WAIT!!  What about the rice pudding you ask?  Butter, rice, milk, sugar.  What could be better?  It cooked in the pot with someone stirring it for about 90 minutes.  They tell me you can do it in a slow cooker without having to stir it every second.  When thick, add in vanilla.  It was the perfect ending to get rid of all that fishy taste in my mouth.  I ate a HUGE bowl!!
My stomach gurgled all the way back home.  

Undaunted, there are three more classes I want to take.  Fondue with vegetables, meat and bread (only if someone cancels) ..... Soups (which I rarely make) .... and Swedish Pancakes with syrup and powdered sugar.  Now THAT one HAS to be the best on the list.

I doubt I will be making any Scandinavian food in the next ten years, but it was a fabulous fun adventure.  Try it ..... you'll LIKE it ........... or maybe not.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Things That Will Never Touch My Lips

Pickled Beets
Pickled Herring

Things I cooked at yesterday's Scandinavian Cooking Class

Pickled Beets
Pickled Herring

I figured there would be a couple of things I probably would NOT want to try when I signed up for the Scandinavian Cooking Class.  So why did I sign up?  Because I had SO much fun at the pie baking class and this was the only other one with an opening.  That should have been a clue right there.  Surely they would have SOMETHING that I deemed edible. 

This time I went extra early so I would have plenty of room to turn my truck around.  My strategy worked perfectly.  I was met with a smile by Gudron, Chef Ron's sweet wife from Sweden.  

First up ..... gravlax.  Not really knowing what the heck it was, I jumped right in.  But first, we have to make the crispy bread on which it sits when we take a bite.  Tunn bread would be the name.  Ever heard of that??  

I was a little leery when I heard yeast, ammonium salt, rye flour and powdered milk.  Once mixed, we did the rolling pin thing, but this time with Lefse rollers that look something like this printmaking roller.
We cut a big hole in the middle to help keep it flatter than a pancake and baked it in the oven on pizza screens.  Next up ... the gravlax.  Anyone know what that is?  Wasn't I surprised when he brought out this 6" piece of salmon that looked like it had been rode hard and put away wet.  

You too can make this delicacy .... with salt, sugar, oil and salmon that you leave under a brick in the fridge for four days.  The description turned my stomach pretty quickly as he mixed up the marinade and spread it on another beautiful piece.  What a shame to ruin that salmon.  Next he grabbed a knife and sliced the "done" piece paper thin, placing it on the pretty salmon board.
Apparently he ate this stuff for about 35 years before he discovered the SAUCE.  You MUST have the sauce for it to be edible.  It's so simple ... mayo, sugar, vinegar, dijon mustard and dill.  This is the appetizer and this is how you eat it (see picture below).  

I made a run to the wine bar first.  I really wasn't sure I could get this down without a taste-killing chaser.  Very tentatively I took a bite, having moved my chair out so I could make a run for the sink if needed.  

This is RAW salmon.  I know sushi eaters consume this stuff all the time, but it has never touched my lips up until now.  Wasn't I shocked to find it tasted pretty darned good.  Not that I would ever have another piece the rest of my life, but honestly the SAUCE was AMAZING!!  It would be delicious on vegetables!!!!
Next on the menu was picked beets.  My mom used to fix these for herself all the time.  I've no idea where she got the craving, because they are horrible in my book, no matter how GOOD they are FOR you!!  

Vinegar, sugar and spices were combined with canned beets and placed in the fridge to marinate.  I could probably choke down one or two small pieces I thought, just so I didn't offend the Chef.

Over two big hurdles, it was time for the pickled herring.  OMG ..... there is no WAY this is going in my mouth.  Vinegar, sugar, allspice, mustard seed and onions were combined and boiled, to be poured over herring in wine sauce, drain the wine sauce first.  

Scandinavians like their fish.  It's their life apparently, and they will eat it cooked (or not cooked) every way you can possibly imagine.  Luckily I got a whiff of the herring before it went in the pot.  I felt very brave to try the raw salmon ..... I was NOT taking a bite of anything pickled with it's guts intact!!!

No WONDER they drink aquavit .... a lovely vodka concoction that surely takes away the flavor of the herring, or maybe they get sloshed and just don't care about the taste.  

Things did get better with the meatballs and rice pudding.  I'll tell you all about that part of the meal tomorrow!!!