Monday, December 31, 2007

Is it Sunday?

After so many days off, I'm getting confused!

Woke up to light snow just after 7:00 AM. A cup of coffee was breakfast, again (its hard to work up enthusiasm for, say, scrambled eggs when people around you are eating flax seeds, lol!).

Today's a little different as Sadie is not feeling well. So, Luanne eventually headed out to the hospital to see her Mom alone. Sadie seemed content enough reading in the living room and, after she promised not to die while I was out, I left, too, to run some errands.

I went to Office Depot and got some printer paper (so I could take my Mom the Blog) and then dropped into Westborn for some things. I decided tonight would be an all-Italian dinner, so upon my return, I began to make a rustic, vegetarian Minestrone soup.

I saut�ed some fine-diced onions and grated carrots in olive oil. Then I added three minced cloves of fresh garlic and two unpeeled russet potatoes, cut into small cubes. I added a whole box of vegetable broth and an additional 1 1/2 cups of water that I had combined and warmed in another sauce pan.

I peeled, then cut up three small zucchini squash into small cubes (trying to mimic the potatoes' size) and added them. I was unable to find the Cannelli Beans I wanted at Westborn, so I settle for canned Great Northern beans. I added about 1/2 jar (maybe 3 1/2 or 4 cups) of the beans to the soup and one regular-sized can of diced tomatoes. As a last inspiration, I added about half of the left-over cooked rutabagas, again cut the same size as the potatoes and squash.

I'd been seasoning with salt and pepper right along, but now I went to the herbs: just a single bay leaf, some dried oregano and a big pile of fresh basil, rolled and cut into a chiffanade. I let all that get happy while I made some pasta dough.

I mounded 1 1/2 cups of flour on the counter, made a well in the middle and added three large eggs. I started scrambling the eggs and mixing in the flour with a fork, then switched to just using my hands. Once I got a ball of dough, I went to the pasta machine.

Oh, oh! Problem! My old kitchen table worked fine with the clamp you use to secure the pasta maker. Nothing in my current kitchen configuration did! I settle on the rolling table, but the crank handle hit the clamp unless you had it half-way pulled out. But, I soldiered on! Once I got the dough flattened, I started to assemble the ravioli.

I mixed cooked, then cooled spinach (after wringing it out with a kitchen towel) with ricotta cheese for the filling. Using my pasta cutters (the roller works much better than the square "stamp" thingie, BTW), I ended up with 15 3-inch squares of ravioli. I set them on the big wood cutting board to dry, turning them every 15 minutes or so.

Sadie made a nice salad about 6:00 PM and Luanne showed up about 1/2 hour later. We ate the salad, then the soup, accompanied by thick slices from a round sour dough bread (from Westborn). I offered to make it into garlic bread, but we all agreed it looked great just the way it was! After these two courses, we rested and I made the ravioli.

Fresh pasta doesn't have to cook nearly as long as dried, so it was like 3-5 minutes to finish the ravioli. I made a sauce by infusing fresh sage leaves in olive oil, then adding a stick of butter to slowly melt. So, each plate of five ravioli got a splash of sauce and two or three sage leaves, topped with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The ladies said they loved it (although Lu surreptitiously wiped off most of the butter when she thought I wasn't looking). Personally, it was pretty good, but I think it would have been better if I'd made the dough a bit thinner. It seemed a bit chewy to me.

We cleaned up and then sat at the kitchen table while they showed me about half of the many, many pictures they took of their Arizona trip and the mule ride into the Grand Canyon. It was about 8:30 PM when I cried "Uncle" and we all went to wash up for bed.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Road Trip!

I awoke at 7:30 AM, after a restless night. It's road trip day, so I am starting with a shave and shower and three cups of coffee (in lieu of breakfast).

The ladies woke up after my shower and commenced their morning ablutions. We gathered everything together and headed out on the road, just after 10:30 AM.

First stop is my Mother's rehab facility. It was a nice surprise to find my brother Joe and his wife Kathy visiting Mom as well. I tried to get enough intel for a Grandma Update for the kids, but not enough has changed to warrant it. She is walking more than 30 feet now, and getting up and standing by herself from the locked wheel chair.

I brought her some of Jake's ginger bread for a treat and Sadie and Lu brought her a fruitcake and some refrigerator magnets they got in Arizona from the Chapel of the Holy Cross. We all stayed until they whisker her away for lunch, then we all headed to her New Baltimore house (the three of us to drop off the fruitcake and magnet presents, and Joe and Kathy to pick up items she had listed she wanted from the house).

BIG MYSTERY!!! My mother has always had a small music cabinet next to her piano for her sheet music. The marks in the rug are still there, but NO CABINET!?! We thought maybe it was moved to allow easier wheelchair access to the hall, but it's not in the house, and not in the garage. Where did it go?

Anyway, with the mystery unsolved, we headed out for Jeremy and Jyl house for a combination Christmas and birthday (Reise and I) celebration. We got to their house about 2:15 PM, just has Jyl was taking her cheese and olive bread out of the oven. Oh, my, that was good. I don't think I'd go to the trouble of baking bread, (Foodie! Foodie!) but a dense Ciabatta bread would work as the base, I'm thinking, so (hint! hint!) if she sends me the recipe I can make this myself.

We exchanged Christmas gifts and everybody seemed to like what they got! Reise especially liked the clothes Lu and Sadie picked out! My loot consisted of a small candle, some oversized jumping jacks and a jack-ball from Riese, a cookbook ("The Cook's Book - Concise Edition) and a black T-shirt with the words, "I'm Blogging This!" printed in white.

Then, it was dinner time. The menu was:

Appetizers: Olive Cheese Bread, Salad & Dressing

Main Dishes: Cheese Manicotti, Beef Stroganoff (for me!)

Desserts: Bumpy Cake, Ben & Jerry's Oxford Cookie Mint and Phish Food (chocolate and marshmallow) Ice Creams.

I really liked the homemade ranch dressing for the salad, BTW.

The beef stroganoff was excellent and, although she had fretted throughout the thickening process, had a perfect sauce. They served me too much to even think about trying the Manicotti, but judging from the amount that was missing from the original huge lasagna pan, it was well received.

I did have a small slice of the Bumpy Cake (just because I was curious) after Riese and I blew out the candles, but passed on the ice cream. Then Riese got her birthday gifts (although my card with more dance lessons money is probably still on the bookshelf; I forgot to get it out).

Joe gave us some rock & roll riffs on his new Christmas guitar and Riese took a turn as well. I did pick up on a somewhat disturbing relationship between my oldest son and his daughter Riese's "Minty My Little Pony" that I would rather not think about. But, hey, look at me and monkeys these days, LOL!

Then, it was time to leave. We pulled out of Port Huron about 7:30 PM and got home at 8:45 PM. Everyone was beat and I personally did not visit much but went straight to bed and book (checking out my new cookbook, actually).

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Friday

I woke up at 6:30 AM and was tiptoeing around the house until the ladies awoke at 8:30. When the room cleared, I managed to post the Blog (sorry to all my anxiously awaiting fans!)

I left at 10:45 AM to go to lunch with B___ again as they were off to the hospital. We went to the mall so I could get come cards at hallmark. I believe I told you of my sadness at the passing of my favorite store, Bombay, right? well, Now Williams-Sonoma is moving out!!! Aaauugghh! No more free cooking classes! No more high-end gadgets to drool over (but not buy - WAY too expensive there! Come to think of it, maybe that's why they have to close, too much drooling, not enough buying!)

I had a few more stops after dropping B___ off and then I got home. I Tried to take a nap, but couldn't fall asleep, so I caught up on all my missed, but taped, shows. Luanne called around 5:30 PM to say they were still at the hospital and waiting for another doctor to show up. She didn't want to spoil dinner. I told her I assumed they wouldn't be here until later and, since dinner was quick, I was waiting until they showed up before starting anything.

But, I got bored... So, since I still had about half of the shrimp filling from the Christmas appetizer (that failed) and half a package of the Philo dough, I warmed the filling and thawed the dough, then made about 10 or 12 turnovers, but bigger than the sad attempt at Christmas. They turned out pretty good. I though they probably wouldn't have taken time for lunch, and they didn't, so Lu, at least had a few appetizers waiting for dinner. She said they were great!

So, they showed up at 715 and I started dinner while they told me the most current news. I finely sliced 3 ounces of fresh shittake mushrooms (stems removed) and 3 ounces of oyster mushrooms and then started saut�ing them in olive oil. After 3 minutes or so, I added 3 minced cloves of garlic for a minute or so and then 6 ounces of baby spinach. Meanwhile, I took a ready-made pizza crust (whole wheat for the ladies, who crave such weird things) and smeared it with 8 ounces of softened goat cheese I bought the other day. I topped the goat cheese with the mushroom/spinach mixture and put it in the oven on 425 degrees F. for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, Sadie made a salad. And that was dinner.

Truthfully, only Luanne really liked the pizza. Sadie said it was okay, but only had one piece. I thought it was nice and tangy, but needed something else to balance that tang; maybe roasted cherry tomatoes?

After cleaning up, we talked a bit, but it was almost 10:00 PM so we went to our respective beds and called it a night.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thursday's Tale

I woke up this morning to a light snow. It's supposed to be above freezing today, so it won't last but, not having to drive in it to work, its pretty to watch.

Still no word from Luanne or Sadie, so can only assume they spent the night in the hospital. Sure enough, I missed a call from them while I was in the shower and yes, Lu stayed in the room on a chair, dozing, and Sadie found a couch in a waiting room to sleep a little on. Seems her Mother is improving somewhat, so that's good. I'll have to wait until I see them for a full report.

Snow did stop and then start melting around 11:00 AM. I did go to lunch with B___ again and found I'd missed some big excitement at work. Yesterday afternoon, a truck hit a guy wire behind Building 7 and snapped a telephone pole in half, smashing three transformers (Jake, who is in a building across the street and down a bit, said it sounded like a bomb went off). This took out power to some of the buildings, but Building 7 was still out today.

Got home and took a nap. Lu called at around 3:30 PM and said they are finally on their way here. I have to leave at 4:45 PM to give Jake a ride home (Carla has a late meeting), but they should be here by them (rush hour traffic not withstanding).

They arrived at 4:40 PM, just as I was leaving. I took Jake home and drove back home after a quick stop at the grocery store. I got back around 6:00 PM. They were settling in, so we visited a while, then exchanged presents. I got two pairs of slipper socks (badly needed), a roasting rack for Cornish game hens or ribs, and three stainless steel pans specifically designed for mise en plaz.

The question of dinner came up. After much discussion, we decided on the last of Jake's Potato and Lee soup and a salad with crackers. Unlike the soups I drop off at my Mom's, this time I got instant feedback: They loved it! Lu caught the smoky background taste and they were both impressed by the smooth, silkiness of the soup. I explained it was the immersion blender, probably.

A little more visiting and they went to bed (understandable, after being at the hospital 21 hours) at 9:30 PM. I read my book until 11:00, then called it a night myself.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Wednesday and Boxing Day, eh?

I woke up to the alarm in a fog... No, not me, outside! Why set the alarm on a day I don't have to work? Garbage day, my man, garbage day...

While I was at it, I stripped my bed and washed the sheets. Why? Because last night watching TV, I was eating the leftover cucumber and radish salad as a late night snack and, when I shifted my weight in bed, some of the dressing sloshed over the side and onto the sheets. As the washer began to fill with water, I stopped to have a cup of coffee and reflect...

Next, I vacuumed the bedroom and office and then dusted the floors. I emptied the dishwasher. When I went to put the sheets in the dryer, I found a load of towels and workout clothes I never removed! So, I let them warm up and then folded them. Then the eternal question: Breakfast or just another cup of coffee. Coffee won!

About that time, Luanne called and said they were still in northern Virginia. While they did leave last night, it was after your usual, normal Christmas Day (big family gathering, big meal, etc.) and, while their spirit was willing, their flesh was weak and neither of them could stay awake. Add to that the fact that most gas stations were closed, so they decided stopping overnight would be a better idea. Now, the revised plan is they will probably get here around 6:00 PM, but go straight to the hospital and play it by ear after that.

Next came a shave and shower and getting ready to face the day. I do have to go out this morning and the fog has yet to burn off. Hope it goes away soon!

So, I dressed, left and made a few stops before getting to B___'s building and picking him up for lunch. After lunch, I stopped at Home Depot (as a Christmas present for Luanne, I am making a nesting box for her pregnant rabbit). Got the wood easy enough, but had real trouble explaining to these city-slickers what "exactly" hardware cloth is. Used every example I could think of ("it's like screen material, but with heavier wire and bigger holes") but they had NO idea what I was talking about until I said "like square chicken wire." Then they sent me to the garden center (probably just to get rid of me), where I did find some hardware cloth! It was only 1/2-inch x 1/2-inch (I was looking for 1/2-inch x 1 inch) but I took it anyway!

Next came Meijer's, where I picked up foodstuffs for the ladies and gave a (maybe) needy person some money (see "Conversation Snippets, Part II" post). I also stopped at the quarter carwash and hosed all the salt off my car (Hey, I can see out the windows again!)

Once I was home and everything was put away, I went into the garage and cut out the wood for the nesting box, then glued and nailed it together. I wouldn't have bothered back in the day when I was raising rabbits for meat, but I got out the belt and orbital sanders and rounded edges, etc. Hey, its a Christmas gift, remember?

I didn't put on the hardware cloth. It will work, and I could just put it on, but if Luanne wants the larger opening hardware cloth (which I am sure will be more readily available in her, more rural, area), she can take it as is and add it when she gets home. I'll leave that call up to her.

I blew off the sawdust, straightened up the garage and changed clothes, throwing the ones I was wearing into the wash. It's almost 8:00 PM, and for my dinner, I'm snacking on yesterday's leftovers.

I made arrangements with Luanne for getting in the house if I'm asleep when they get here, so I'm watching TV and lightly dozing. No telling if or when they will get here (they may spend the night in the hospital, for that matter), but its after midnight now, so I'm going to bed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Conversation Snippets, Part I

So, I'm at the cash register in CVS, waiting for the checkout lady to stop fooling around with the photo machine and check me out, when an old man walks in and stands behind me. The lady glances at both of us and sees I have my purchase in my hands, but he is just standing there, so she asks him, "Are you here to pick up photos?"

He says, "No, I have some lottery tickets and want to see if I'm a millionaire!"

I immediately turned around, shook his hand and said, "Well, good luck! And, if you are a millionaire, remember I always liked you!"

He laughed so hard I was a little afraid he would choke!

Converastion Snippets, Part II

With Sadie and Luanne on their way, I stop in at Meijer's to pick up staples not normally kept in my house (orange juice, fruit other than my regular lemons and limes, more salad fixings, etc.) and, in the paper products aisle (the same aisle as before!) the same guy comes up to me and asked me if I can help him out!!! Long time readers may remember, he had just lost his job after moving to the area and needed food for his family, yada, yada, yada...

Well, this time, he just spent all his money getting a treatment for his 8-year old daughter (and he showed me her picture) who's diabetic and now has no money for food!

I don't bother to mention our previous meeting (no point in embarrassing him) but give him ten dollars and tell him good luck.

But, although I'm sure I look like an easy mark (old white guy with a cane, and so on), the question remains: why that aisle? Is that like the only aisle NOT covered by the store cameras so they can't see this scam artist?

And, is he a scam artist, or just somebody down on his luck and making up stories that will help he get some money? Or, are his stories true and our recurring meetings a coincidence?

I dunno, but that's the last money I give him...

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Sausage and Mushroom Dressing and the Hasselback Potato
(Food Porn all courtesy of Jake)

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Sweet Cucumber and Radish Salad

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Rutabagas with butter and chives

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Roast Goose Breast, topped with Brandy Cranberry Reduction

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Mushrooms en Papillote, with Lemon Wedge

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Potato and Leek Soup, garnished with chives

Christmas Day, 2007

Well, its 6:30 AM Christmas morning, and it's "up and at 'em, Atom Ant!" Warmed up a cup of coffee from yesterday and sent off blog post.

I'm hungry, but I have a lot of other cooking to do. On the other hand, I still have three biscuits left from yesterday. No time for white sausage gravy, but, as a second choice, I opened and warmed up a jar of beef gravy. Biscuits got split and warmed in microwave, then buttered, then topped with the gravy. Heart Attack on a Plate? Maybe, but it was GOOD!!!

Next, I took a shower and did miscellaneous chores (take out the trash, change the kitty litter, etc.) Now, it's back to Christmas dinner. I saut�ed the goose innards, neck and wing tips. Then I added coarse chopped onion, carrots, celery, smashed garlic and shallots and saut�ed them until they wilted a bit. They went into a small stock pot with 4 cups of my homemade chicken stock. Brought first to a boil, they will simmer for an hour to make the goose stock for the brandy cranberry reduction.

I was just about to duplicate my insane ramblings of yesterday and describe in excruciating detail all the things I did, Jake did and Carla did to bring Christmas dinner to fruition. But, I have unexpected house guests coming from out of state (as you will read later on) and a lot of tidying up to do before tomorrow morning, so let's save time and Website space and just go through the menu:

Secret Appetizer: Phyllo Turnovers with Shrimp and Ricotta Filling - Pain in the ass to make if you followed the recipe. Jake and Carla said they were good, but I will never make them again!

First Course: Potato and Leek soup - Four Stars! Excellent smooth, silky, smoky taste (the smoky taste coming from Jake's use of his stock, made from the smoked turkey at Thanksgiving).

Second Course: Mushroom en Papillote - Another four Stars! Served with lemon wedges, they were a real treat. And, serving them unopened on their own plate worked well, too, because when you opened them, you were immediately hit with the most delicious odor!

Entr�e and Sides:

Roast Goose - I did pick up a larger roasting pan with a "V" shaped rack to accommodate all the expected grease. It's all dark meat, of course, and did have slight gamey taste, but, other than the skin (gummy and gross) it tasted more like roast beef than duck (if that makes any sense at all). I'd give it three stars.

Brandy Cranberry Reduction - hard to say if you are judging the original recipe. Why? Because Carla took over that particular project and decided after numerous taste-tests, it needed something a little more acidic to balance the sweetness. So, she added fresh-squeezed lemon juice and some parsley. But the final reduction was fantastic (I'm not kidding, here) and paired well with the goose! Four stars!

Speaking of pairing well with the goose, Jake and Carla went to a wine shop in Plymouth and asked what wine would go with goose. After several taste tests, they settled on a MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir (2005) that was perfect!

Mushroom and Sausage Dressing - Big bomb! I admit I overcooked it, but still, all you tasted was pork sausage. Another "never again" dish.

Rutabagas with butter and herbs - Supposed to be "with butter and parsley", but at the last minute it was changed to "butter and chives." Doesn't matter, as I love rutabagas. Carla spent most of the meal trying to decide what "familiar" taste they reminded her of. She finally settled on cabbage. I can sorta see that, but not 100%!

Hasselback Potatoes - Actually, another four stars. A nice crispy exterior and a soft interior. I would have liked to see them get more contorted during roasting, (that's how they looked on the cooking show we watched) but I thinks it's my fault for cutting a flat on their backside so they would sit upright during roasting.

Sweet Cucumber and Radish Salad - Again, four stars! A nice light, palate cleanser. I'll definitely keep that in my "bag of tricks" for any meal!

After Dinner Snack: Gingerbread - Four stars!!! Not too sweet, strong ginger taste and after-bite. I loved it!

Please note: At my request, Jake brought his camera and took photos of most of the above food. I will post them just after posting this.

Just after eating, Jyl and Riese called to wish me a Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas (thanks, guys!) I asked Riese what she was doing, playing with her presents or just finishing a big Christmas dinner and she said with a sigh, "Just cleaning..."

Jake and Carla left at 5:15 PM (they both have to work tomorrow) and I turned the dishwasher on. About 6:30, Luanne called. Her Mom is in the hospital and not expected to live, so she and Sadie are leaving now and driving through the night up to Michigan. Sad news any day, but especially on Christmas!

I was in the backroom, washing the big stock pots in the laundry tub just after that when I heard a huge crash. I ran up into the kitchen and found the one pine wall shelf (nearest the onions) hanging down and all the stuff on it but the metal tea kettle and my hand painted picture smashed on the floor (my china tea pot, my antique English tea cup and saucer, etc.) Weird as hell! Only thing I can think of is maybe Caley jumped up onto it or something. So, I spent some time cleaning that mess up, trying not to have any broken pieces left lying about.

I was busy cleaning the house when Luanne called again and said her Mother had stabilized somewhat, so they wouldn't be driving straight through (and getting here at 7 or 8:00 AM) but would be in sometime tomorrow. I suggested she call my cell phone when she's nearby, so I can get back home (if I'm out, running errands) to let them in.

So, it's just before 10:00 PM, and I quit for the night!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a "Good Night!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

How I spent my birthday, by Captain Courageous

I got up on my birthday morning at 6:00 AM and started coffee. I finished yesterday's blog and posted it. I started getting ecards for my birthday, and spent some time laughing at some of them, and smiling at others. Then I decided to shave and shower and get on with the day.

When I got out of the shower, I put the shower curtain, my towel and bathmat in the washer to freshen them up for Christmas. I checked the phone and found I'd missed a birthday call from Jake and Carla. I called them back to thank them, but just got voicemail.

I re-mixed and refilled the house seasoning shaker. The phone rang and this time it was Lu and Sadie, singing me "Happy Birthday," which, although traditional, never quite grows old! It looks like now they will be arriving on Friday, the 28th. Lu asked about my "big plans" for my birthday and I had to confess, I hadn't given it any thought. I don't even have an idea for dinner tonight!

I was just getting ready to go out to the grocery store (I forgot parchment paper for my Mushrooms en Papillote tomorrow) when I heard the front door open. It was Jake and Carla, who came to surprise me with a Birthday breakfast and bearing a special treat, homemade eggnog (the adult version with bourbon in it)! So, we chatted as Carla made her famous homemade home fries and poached three eggs, while Jake fried a ham steak and baked biscuits. They plated them with a spoonful of the home fires (Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed and fried with onions) topped with the poached egg and the ham steak on the side with a biscuit. Excellent fare! Thanks guys!

While they were cleaning up (over my protestations) my Mother called to wish me a Happy Birthday! Apparently my brother Joe's phone can be amplified, so we had a short but very satisfying conversation. After Jake and Carla left, my brother Joe called (on his way back home) and he and Kathy both wished me a happy birthday, too. They said Mom wouldn't let them talk, lol! Jeremy called, next, and wished me a happy birthday. He said they had a great day yesterday, celebrating with Jyl's sisters and their grandkids, exchanging gifts and decorating cookies.

While we are on the subject, I'd also like to thanks those people who cared enough to send birthday e-cards: Canada Cathy, my brother Carl (who sent multiple ones) and my daughter, Amy (who sent two). I'd also like to thank people for their birthday emails: Fran (my daughter's mother) and my friend Tracey (who, it turns out, was in fact too busy at work to come over and make cookies). And, last, those who mailed or handed me traditional cards: Luanne, Sadie, my friend, B___ and Jake and Carla (who brought two). And, lest we forget, the 20th anniversary edition of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader (if you have to ask, you probably don't want to know) and a huge variety pack of vegetable seeds from Dave and my daughter Melissa. Thank you one and all! Being 59 years old ain't so bad if it gets me all this attention!!

So, quick trip to Kroger's and I got the parchment paper. Its cold out there and still windy!! Once back home, I changed clothes and started prepping food for tomorrow's dinner.

I got the Hasselback potatoes peeled and sliced 3/4 of the way through, then put them in water until tomorrow (so they won't turn brown). I warmed up two gallons of water so I could easily stir in one cup of kosher salt and one cup of brown sugar, and then put the stock pot out on the patio to cool. Once that's done, I'll put in the other ingredients that make up the brine and then add the goose.

It's just after 4:00 PM and the mail just came. Trudged out to get it and found two more birthday cards: one from Jer, Jyl, Joe and Riese and one other from just Riese. Thanks, guys!

Back to work, now. Cut out the 12-inch circles of parchment paper for the Mushrooms en Papillote and am cutting up the ingredients of the pouches. First time ever: I was mincing a shallot and it made me cry (now I'm worried it might be too strong for this dish).

Sidebar: As you might have guessed, on weekends and Holidays, I type in stuff off and on, that I am doing during the day, because otherwise, I would forget things. Anyway, I just thought of something after typing the words, "First time ever" and I am ROFLMAO ("Rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off," Mom) so I am going to post my thought right now!

Okay, enough fooling around, back to work! Now, I've got the Mushroom en Papillote done and sitting in the fridge. It's a mixture of 1 pound of fresh wild mushrooms (I used oyster, shitake and baby bellos, which I still think are really Crimini. I was going to go with Chantrelles instead, but could only find dried ones.) The mushrooms were trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces and mixed with finely chopped chives, finely chopped parsley, finely chopped tarragon, the minced shallot and 2 cloves of garlic minced, along with about 1/2 stick of melted butter. This mixture is put into the circles of parchment paper, which is folded in a certain way so it can't open. I brushed the other half of the stick of melted butter on the parchment paper so it doesn't burn in the oven. The four pouches are in a shallow baking dish in the fridge. At the same time, I have been browning the pork sausage for the dressing. That's out of the pan and on some paper towels to drain thoroughly.

Next, I am tackling the goose and run into a problem! Although its been in the fridge overnight, its still not thawed, and its almost 6:00 PM!!! Then the phone rang, and it was my daughter Melissa, with her birthday/Christmas wishes (thanks!) She's making a honey glazed ham for Christmas dinner for her, Dave, Dustin, Linnea and Gavin. She had some interesting side dishes that I asked her to send me the recipes. She suggested a quick thaw for the goose in the laundry tub with cold water. I compromised and put it in my biggest stock pot with cold water (I think it's probably a little cleaner than my laundry tub). LOL, I was telling her about the Mushroom en Papillote and how the same technique cn be used to poach fish, etc. She said they did similar things when they lived up in Northern lower Michigan, but they just used tinfoil instead of all that fussing with parchment paper. So, there you go: The French may invent it, but the Yoopers will refine it!

Next, Carla's Mom, Acenter, called with her birthday/Christmas wishes. She just saw her son, Curtis and his family, but they aren't staying for Christmas dinner, so she's just making greens, etc. for her own Christmas dinner. However, she said when her brother comes to visit she is going to make my pumpkin-cranberry cake. She loved it! After she hung up, I wished I'd mentioned the recipe I saw for simmered greens and corn meal dumplings I want to try someday!

Now, back to work! I switch gears and go back to the Mushroom Sausage Dressing (interesting factoid: If you make it and put it in your bird, it's called stuffing. If you make it and bake it in, say, a casserole dish, it's called dressing.) So, I saut�ed 1 cup finely diced celery and 1 cup finely diced onions until soft. Then I added 2 cups of diced fresh mushrooms (I used button mushrooms here) and three large cloves of garlic, minced. Once that had all reduced (as mushrooms will) I mixed it with the pork sausage and let it all cool, then covered it with tin foil and put it in the fridge for tomorrow. You can prep it this far, but can't add the stock and croutons yet, because, overnight, the croutons will fall apart.

Well, it's almost 7:30 PM, and, unless the goose is thawed, I can't make the stock for the brandy cranberry reduction like I'd planned. So, I'll check it out! Nope! So, I peeled the rutabagas instead and cut it into 1-inch chunks and put them in a saucepan with water for tomorrow. I'll quit now, make some dinner and set my alarm for 11:00 PM to wake up and get the goose in the brine solution. I'll make the stock for the brandy cranberry reduction tomorrow morning, I guess. I did pour 1 cup of brandy over the 3/4 cup of dried, sweetened cranberries and set it aside to get happy overnight.

So, I washed everything that either was too big (stock pots and big bowls) or can't go into the dishwasher (my Wustoff and Shun Chef knives and one Shun paring knife) and turn on the dishwasher for the rest. Then I got out the two burner grill pan and grilled some smoked bratwurst (it's a German birthday celebration, I guess, Lol!). Put them on rye bread with coarse-ground mustard and had a few dill pickle spears as the side dish. It's 8:21 PM and I officially quit for the night (except for putting the goose in the brine, later). I set the alarm for the goose and watched TV.

I didn't need the alarm as I stayed up, so I just went and checked; and the goose was thawed! I dumped that water, took out the neck and the package of innards, put the goose back in the big stock pot and re-covered it with the brine. The brine now consists of the original two gallons of water, kosher salt and brown sugar, plus two oranges, quartered, two lemons, quartered, six sprigs of thyme and four sprigs of Rosemary. The stock pot goes out into the big fridge (unheated garage) for the night and I go to bed!

Thanks again, everybody, for a great birthday!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Pick up Lines after age 55...

As you can imagine, pick up lines change when you are older. A very popular one at my age is "Well, you certainly can't be my first, but you can be my last!"

However, for the commitment-phobic (like myself) we change it to the more appropriate, but less effective, "Well, you certainly can't be my first, but you can be my next!"

Sunday day and Christmas eve eve...

I woke up at 6:10 AM Sunday morning. Busy day today, so I posted the blog, then copied it and printed it out for Mom. I also reprinted last weeks AND the recipes for all my Christmas dinner dishes (she's gonna ask, anyway). There was a weird noise coming from the downstairs room, and I was concerned. I thought my furnace fan had broke or something. But, when I got down there, it was just a very hard rain, driven sideways by the gusty winds, and hitting the south facing window. We have a high wind advisory for this morning until noon!

Next, I baked the chocolate chip cookies. I noticed something (a bit late). I did buy the Ghirardelli, but it's the 100% Cacao unsweetened chocolate baking bar. I'm not into sweets, but I hope it doesn't wreck the cookies! Got those done (and they look great!) Then I cleaned the kitchen up and put everything away (I'll make the last cookies - the Molasses Crinkles - after Christmas). I put some of the cookies in two tins, one for my Mom and one for B___'s family.

I shaved and showered, then got dressed to go. The plan is to visit my Mom first, then stop a B___'s house for a Holiday dinner celebration with he and his family along with his brother Bob and his friend Linda.

I was about to leave when I saw two large branches had blown off the maple tree out front and were blocking the driveway and part of the street. So, I dragged them off onto the grass and finally left. I stopped for gas, and then headed out on the expressway.

I got to Mom's about 11:30 AM. She was sitting up in her wheelchair, reading, so I sat on her bed. I gave her the cookies and the blog(s). We chatted a bit (both she and her roommate had also noticed the heavy rain and the high winds out there window. She said she went to therapy this morning, before breakfast! She said she barely had her eyes opened, when they took her down.

She said they had brought some of the empty soup containers back and told me to take them home. I asked her what she thought of the potato soup and she said she never got any!!! I said, you mean you haven't tried it yet? And she said, no when she asked for it, they searched everywhere and it was gone! Somebody else ate it! So, I promised I'd bring her some more. She did say the Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup was delicious, so I felt better about that. But, we will have to wait some more for her critique of Jake's potato soup!

They came to take her to lunch about 12:15, so I said my goodbyes and headed out for B___'s. It wasn't until I put them in the car I realized I also had somebody else's containers, too. So, let me know who's they are and I'll get them back to you.

I got into a terrible traffic jam, due to construction at 23 Mile Road and Romeo Plank, but I did make it to B___'s just after 1:00 PM. They already had the food cooking and a veggie tray out, so some snacking and visiting was in order. His younger daughter is home from college for the holidays and his older daughter was also there, so there was a nice, family feeling in the house. I often miss that...

B___'s wife and oldest daughter agreed to be food critics for my botched chocolate chip cookies. They both said they wouldn't throw them out (as I suggested I might do) and that, while they weren't sweet, they had a strong, pleasant taste of hot cocoa. I heard their words, but was looking at their faces... I dunno... I think I'll wait for the judgment of the toughest critics I know: the dreaded Jake and Carla food review team!

Bob was late as the wind had damaged some of his house siding and blew over (and smashed) his garden gazing globe. But, he eventually got there and then we ate. The menu included a big, beautiful beef roast, along with the roasted carrots and onions, a reduction sauce for the meat made from the beef pan drippings, twice-baked potatoes (topped with cheese and fresh bacon bits) and an interesting jello dish with raspberries and sour cream. Dessert was homemade apple pie with ice cream (I had to pass, of course). And, did I mention the fresh ground hazelnut coffee?

Okay, so I ate too much, but it was hard not too!

The older daughter's beau, James, stopped in as we were watching pictures of B___ and his wife's trip to an Elk Ranch up North. I checked the time (almost 4:30 PM) and realized I should leave now to get home before dark. So, I made my goodbyes and headed out. Bill slipped me a birthday card on the way out; that I'll read at home (I don't want him to see me cry if it's mushy, lol).

Traffic was light and it took me 45 minutes to get home (contrast that to the 1 1/2 hours it normally takes B___ to go to and from work). First thing I did was open my card and, while there was no big dollar-amount check in it like I'd hoped, there was a picture of a monkey and an oddly touching personal message. And, it don't get much better than that!

Remember how I said I cleaned up after making the last batch of cookies this morning? Well, in the early evening, the kitchen didn't really look all that clean. So, I started a load of laundry with all the towels, tablecloths, etc, I'd dirtied and scrubbed the counter and stove down again. I swept the floor again, then, after vacuuming the two walk-off rugs downstairs (full of Caley's hair, again), I washed the kitchen and upstairs bathroom floor. I washed the bathroom and kitchen throw rugs after putting the first load of laundry into the dryer.

It was just after 8:00 PM when I decided it was time to quit. I was still too full from my holiday dinner to worry about a real dinner, so tonight's "dinner" was various snacks throughout my night's TV watching, including some olives, two dill pickle slices and a hard boiled egg with salt. I went to bed at exactly 11:00 PM.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Fun Facts

The world's highest navigable lake? Lake Titicaca.

Importance? None, really. I just like saying Titicaca...

Saturday

After all the late night wandering I did, I still woke up before 7:00 AM. I have a busy day today, but I did take time to make the French toast (planned for last weekend) to use up some of my old bread. The rest went on the top of the dryer to go out to the birds tomorrow. After eating and cleaning up, I made up my grocery lists.

I decided to be a rebel again and not shave. So, I just showered and got ready for shopping. It's above freezing, so I got my light jacket instead of my heavy leather one and headed out.

First, I went to Kroger's. Now, I am really not familiar with this store (like I was at Farmer Jacks and am at Meijers), so getting my list filled involved a LOT of walking back and forth (and it's a pretty big store). In the first aisle or so, I ran into a young woman (maybe, mid-twenties) in a grey sweater who was shopping with her Mom. Several times thereafter, even though I had backtracked several aisles to find something, we ended up in each other's way. But, the most impressive thing was when I asked a lady employee at the end of the store (maybe Aisle 30) where I could find dried sweetened cranberries and she said, "Oh, they are back at the other side of the store (maybe Aisle 2)" So, I trudged all the way back and while I was looking for them, the grey-sweatered woman showed up!

So, I asked her in a stern voice, "Are you stalking me?" She laughed and said, "Well, I guess I am!" Now, here's where I could use some divine guidance (or maybe just a friend who knows good pick-up lines), but all I could come up with at the moment was, "Well, don't make me call Security" and went on shopping. I have been kicking myself in the butt (figuratively) ever since. I am SUCH a social boob!

I dropped a bundle there, just shopping for items I am out of, even though I did a complete grocery shopping last Friday! Go figure!

Then I went to Westborn, to pick up fresh produce, herbs, exotic mushrooms and specialty cheeses. I spent way more than I had planned, there, too. And, its only 12:30!

Once home and with the groceries put away, I changed clothes and began my Christmas cookie baking. Now, as long time readers may remember, the last two years, I have been joined in this effort with my friend and ex-employee, Tracey (the woman who comes over with her dog Samson, the Pomeranian, that Scruffy likes to beat up). However, she has scheduled then canceled several visits over this past year, citing overtime work. And, I believe her, knowing what Spacely Sprockets Manufacturing has been faced with. But, I don't feel good about asking her over at the last minute, so I will do this by myself.

Now, remember, I am a self-confessed "Foodie" and, we DON'T bake (Okay, there are the occasional biscuits and my pasties but that's an aberration, dammit!) So, I must tell you with two people, baking Christmas cookies is kinda fun. With just me, it's just a chore.

But, I soldier on. In the middle of the oatmeal raisin cookies, my brother Carl called. There's a problem! Somehow the staff lost Mom's new, unread copy of the Blog I mailed her. So, Carl being Carl, he wanted to know how I copy it off the web, so he could recreate it for her. I told him I am coming to see her tomorrow (Sunday) and will bring last week and this week's Blog to her, hand delivered.

Then just as I started to ball up the peanut butter cookies, Lu called to tell me they will be at least one day later than she said, due to scheduling conflicts. Stopping and talking also allowed me to take stock and I realize how bad my legs and back are feeling. So, when the last of the peanut butter cookies are baked and cooling, I wash up and take a nap.

I got up at 6:15 PM, starving! So, I warm up the second steak I'd broiled this past week and two more little baked potatoes and eat them. I still have two more kinds of cookies to make, but my heart isn't in it, so I decided I'll do them first thing in the morning. I cleaned up the mixing bowls and the cookie sheets (no point in putting away all the ingredients) and finish up by 8:00 PM. I watched TV until 11:00 and then went to bed, reluctantly setting my alarm...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Friday and something's fishey around here

Work seemed to drag on forever! Well, Fridays or the day before a Holiday, they always do. Combine the two, and you got trouble!

It was still above freezing when I got home, so I went up into the attic to look for a empty box (I save them, you see) and found on that's not perfect, but will do. I did get a call from my Brother Jim about the soup (as I previously posted).

I got a couple of magazines in the mail, so I sat in the living room and read them until after 7:00 PM.

Not sure why, but when I thought about dinner, I thought about one of my Mom's favorites, Tuna and Peas. Simple enough, warm up a can of drained tuna mixed with a can of cream of mushroom soup and some peas (I suppose a con of those, too, but I use frozen) Serve over some wide egg noodles and enjoy. So, that's what I did.

Cleaned up the dishes and went to watch TV. I fell asleep early, but woke up in the night, unable to get back to sleep until about 4:00 AM (but, that's okay, because I don't have to go to work for 9 days!)

9 days...

[Big grin on my face]

Friday, December 21, 2007

Semi-soup update

My brother Jim just called. He made sure to ask Mom about the soup. She said so far, they have just served her the Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup and that it was good.

Good? GOOD? I was hoping for at least "outstanding" if not "superb" or "incredible," stopping short of "it was so good, I almost died" of course! (Hey, at her age, I don't want to cause any problems or be blamed for anything, if you know what I mean!)

Good? [sigh]

She has not had the Roasted Potato soup yet, so Jake will just have to wait...

Maybe he'll luck out and get "it was pretty good!"

Thursday

Sunny and somewhat warmer today. I had a nice surprise when I got home. The last item I'd ordered for Christmas was in the mail box! So, after refilling the birdfeeder and changing clothes, I got out the wrapping paper and did my thing.

Now, what's for dinner? I have leftover soup, but I'm hungrier than that. So, I thawed some smoked sausage and fried it up with some sliced Yukon Gold potatoes and yellow onions.

I replaced the ink cartridges in my printer and roamed around on the internet for a while, then decided to watch some TV. And, that's the rest of the night!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Soup Update (sorta)

If you remember, I asked my Mom specifically to tell "somebody" (hell, "anybody") what she thought of the two soups and to have them call me. Okay, okay, its trivial in the whole scheme of things. But, if you threw away the first version of a two-day soup, then spent another two days making the next version of your own Beef, Barley and Mushroom soup (like me) or worked through an idea and created your own unique version of potato soup (like Jake), you kinda want to know what other people think!

So, I swallowed my pride and called my brother Jim and asked if Mom had said anything about the soup. Well, he said he didn't get there today as he had a conference call to attend to... (Dammit!)

So, I guess we will have to wait another day or two to find out if we did good on our latest soup offerings...

Two Observations...

for my health-conscious friends and/or family members:

1. Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

2. Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals, dying of nothing.

Wednesday, working...

I am trying a new tactic about my glasses by wearing the new ones at work and changing into the old ones when I get home (to keep the new ones "newer," longer). Well, this morning, it backfired. I grabbed my old ones off the nightstand when the alarm went off and without thinking, wore them to work! I guess I have to practice this routine a bit more.

When I got home, I was pleasantly surprised that Redford Township had finally plowed my street. This is good, not only for driving down the street itself, but really important for getting out of San Jose onto Plymouth Road. Why? Because, with the snow as deep as it was, you could not drive up to Plymouth Road, stop, check for traffic and then continue. Because, you would get stuck! All you could do is a "rolling stop," pray to God no one was coming and punch it to get through to the plowed pavement.

So, the street plowing sounds great, right? Well, kinda. That means, of course there is now a large snow berm in front of my previously shoveled (by my neighbor, God bless him) driveway and mailbox. So, after plowing my way through and getting into the garage, the first thing I did was grab a snow shovel and clean out the entrance to the driveway and the approach to and from the approach to the mail box. The second thing I did was double over and suck in huge amounts of air. There is NOTHING in the world that makes you feel so out of shape as snow shoveling!

Once inside (and breathing normally, again) I changed clothes, started the Wednesday night laundry load and then dug out my Christmas presents to wrap. Everything but one lousy present has arrived at my doorstep, so I thought it was time.

I wrapped them in between several phone calls (I seem to be very popular tonight). I had to beat off the cats, who both at separate times decided it would be a great thing to lay on the table while I worked, but I got them all wrapped by 8:30. With the laundry either hung up and/or folded, it's now time for dinner.

So, I used Jake's method of broiling steaks. Instead of using the "broiler pan" like I do, he uses a cooling rack on top of a tinfoil-lined cookie sheet (similar to my using the cooling rack on top of a paper towel-lined cookie sheet for draining fried foods). He says its less cleanup (and, I always HATE cleaning that stupid broiler pan). I made two baked potatoes (they were small) in the microwave and topped them with sour cream. I sat down and had a great dinner.

Well, Jake was right! It was a heck of a lot easier to wash the rack than the broiler pan. I wandered off to watch TV and go to bed.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday's Road Trip

As those of you who live in Michigan or Minnesota will understand, I never made it out to New Baltimore to see my Mom this Sunday. So, I arranged to leave work today at 2:00 PM and drive out there, along with one 4-cup container of my latest Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup
and another 4-cup container of my version of Jake's Potato Soup. I set the cruise control at 80 MPH and got there just under one hour!!!

Mom was sleeping when I walked in, but awoke immediately. She said the therapy is wiping her out (and, she said she did tell her therapist how I had said there were times when I wanted to kill the therapist who came out to my house. Okay, so yes, I did say that, but not so she would repeat it, merely to give her an idea of how tough it would be! Geesh! They will all probably ambush me in the hall and beat the snot out of me!!)

Anyway, they have modified her walker and at the last session, she walked 26 feet!!! She has changed her aspirations somewhat as a result of this progress. Instead of saying all she wants is to go home, now she says she would like to stay there until her therapy no longer gives her any improvement. In her own words, "I want to be out at Lake Orion this summer, but not in a wheelchair. I can walk 26 feet now, but Joe said its about 40 feet from the front porch to the kitchen, so that's at least how far I need to be able to walk."

The old gal still has spunk!

And, now the moment you've all been waiting for: She loved the split pea soup! She said she was a little worried when she read in the Blog I added red pepper flakes instead of salt, but she said it wasn't too spicy, just really good. Now, I hope "somebody" will call and let me know if she liked the Beef, Mushroom and Barley Soup and/or the Potato Soup.

I left just after 4:00 PM, hoping I'd miss the rush-hour traffic and, mostly, I did. I got home about 5:45. Before I got home, my brother Joe called me on the cell phone to let me know how she was doing (I appreciate that, BTW) and was surprised I had just left there. I guess I should have told everybody I was coming to see her, but it was a last minute decision.

Once home, I was tired from the driving, so I decided that dinner tonight would be the last three chicken legs (cold) and a tossed salad. That made clean-up pretty easy - threw away the paper plate, rinsed out the salad bowl and my fork and I was done!

I watched some TV, but called it an early night.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Monday, maintaining...

Slipped and slid my way into work. Took the surface streets and most were not too bad (worst was Schoolcraft, a two lane highway that had just one lane, poorly plowed).

Once work was finished and I was back home, the night became one of maintenance chores. I switched out the kitty liter in both pans and got the garbage all ready for Tuesday morning, I emptied the dishwasher (filled with Sunday's dinner stuff). I took the last load of clothes out of the dryer, folded them and put them away, and so forth.

Dinner was the two catfish filets (hey, you know what they say about fish and visitors after two days). I dipped it in an egg and buttermilk mixture, then into seasoned yellow cornmeal and finally into about 1/2 inch of hot oil. The sides were a wild rice and herb mixture and the remaining cubes of rutabagas (left over from the pasties). I ate my catfish topped with hot sauce (the ONLY way to eat catfish, I believe), the wild rice straight up and the rutabagas with butter and salt. Excellent dinner!

I watched TV until around 10:00 PM and then went to sleep.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Still Snowing on Sunday!

I woke up Sunday morning to a wintry wonderland! It was still snowing, but the wind hadn't picked up yet, so I took some pictures and posted them. At around 9:00 AM, I stuck a ruler into the snow on top the bird seed can and had almost 6 inches at that point.

I was going to make French toast, but took a look at the stock pot, still simmering, and decided to deal with it first. So, I strained it through a sieve to get out the large chunks. Then strained it again through the sieve and a handkerchief and ended up with 12 cups of clear beef stock. I took the meat off the short ribs and reserved the beef for the soup.

Then, I made the beef, mushroom and barley soup. This time I am well pleased! I am sure Mom will like this one.

By now its almost 1:00 PM and I still haven't eaten, but I'm a little tired of cooking. So I opened a can of Hormel chili, warmed it up, topped it with shredded cheddar cheese and ate it with a beer. Weather conditions had worsened as the winds had picked up (they predicted 25-35 mph winds) and the snow was blowing and drifting all over the place.

Then I started house cleaning. I had all the rooms vacuumed and/or swept and next on the list was to wash the kitchen floor. But, it was almost 3:30 PM and my back hurt a little, so I thought I would take a nap.

I just started to doze off when Jake and Carla showed up! They were out doing this and that and decided to drop by. So, we chatted for a while (Jake told me of his first experience as a home owner, shoveling the snow on this driveway, the decks and the sidewalk). I suggested dinner (all I had that wasn't frozen were two catfish filets and 18 chicken legs I had bought and then in covered with buttermilk on Saturday).

We decided on the fried chicken with French fries. So, I used the mandoline to cut up russet potatoes and half-filled my Dutch oven with canola oil. Carla fried them for the first time for four minutes at 325 degrees F. (to cook the inside).

Then I drained the buttermilk from the chicken legs and set up the mise en place for frying the chicken: one bowl of flour for dredging, a bowl of eggs and hot sauce, whisked together, and finally, a bowl of seasoned flour for the coating. Carla worked the fry station, getting the chicken perfectly brown, draining them on a rack over paper towels and then putting them in the oven to finish and keep warm).

When the chicken was all cooked, she cranked up the oil heat to 375 degrees F. and cooked the fries again for two minutes (to crisp up the outside). We set the table and sat down to supper. Excellent!

They cleaned up and took a moment to admire my little tree, and then headed for home just after 8:00 PM. I went off to watch my Sunday night TV shows.

When they drove in, Jake went back and forth to make a wide path in the snow for me to get out in the morning. But, when I woke up, Monday morning, my whole driveway was cleared off, the pad in front of the garage was hand shoveled and even the sidewalk to the back gates was hand shoveled! Either the Christmas elves or my neighbor came and did it sometime in the night!

BTW, the official snow amount my area got was 8.5 inches, without counting blowing and drifting.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Posted pictures

I posted my first pictures of the storm. I must have looked like quite the sight! I had on my hat, my leather jacket, my deep snow boots and my workout shorts, lol! Thank God nobody's on the roads right now.

Forecast is for 3-5 more inches today with 25-35 mile per hour winds and another inch overnight when it should all stop.

Sadly, I don't think I'm gonna make it to New Baltimore to see my Mom and give her the soup today. Sorry, Mom!

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First snow storm pictures #1

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First snow storm pictures #2

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First snow storm pictures #3

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First snow storm pictures #4

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First snow storm pictures #5

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First snow storm pictures #6

Snowy Saturday

I got up at 6:23 AM and put a pot of coffee on. After downing my pills (my usual weekday breakfast), I decided I was still hungry, so I made some soft boiled eggs for breakfast. I did the usual shave and shower and morning chores (clean the litter boxes, refill the cat feeders, feed Newt and turn his light on and take the kitchen garbage out to the garage).

I got dressed and left just in time for my first appointment, my 9:30 AM haircut. My friend B__ had just reviewed the "suggested" tipping for Christmas list with me this week. I was surprised to learn I was supposed to have tipped my barber (and I have used the same one since I first moved to Redford) for Christmas. Well, duh!)

In my defense, the only experience I have had with tipping for the holiday's was when I was a kid and my Mom and Dad would leave a Christmas card with some cash in it out for the mail delivery person. But, government regulations forbid that now.

Anyway, I tipped her an extra ten dollars and told her have a nice Holiday. When I went outside, the snow (that's supposed to start around 9:00 PM tonight) was falling fast, and the wind was blowing it sideways! I drove carefully to the eye glass place. With just a little fussing, my new glasses fit perfectly! It's a new look for me (I went back to full frame glasses. I'm tired of breaking that stupid fishing line that held my old lenses in!) But, I like it. I'll report other people's observations as they become available.

Next, I drove through the blowing snow to the bank, where I found the ATM was broken. Dammit! Waldenbooks was next, to pick up a Christmas present. Then I drove to the Kroger's for my bi-weekly grocery shopping. Place was PACKED!!! One lady remarked to another that it's always this way when there's a Winter Storm Warning. I dunno... but it makes my "Go to Kroger to avoid the mob at Meijer's" theory look a little stupid.

I left there, but couldn't go to the feed store (I got no cash and they don't take debit cards) but, I still have some bird seed left, so that's okay. I did stop at the CVS drugstore where my bank has a little ATM machine and got some dough. Then I drove home and unloaded all my goodies.

The snow has stopped, so the next thing on my list is to refill the bird feeder, the suet cage and the squirrel feeder (used the last of my peanuts for that). With the coming storm, I have flocks of birds and squirrels out there. Not five minutes after coming inside, I watched in amazement out the kitchen window while grackles fought with cardinals and sparrows for the bird feed and squirrels fought with blue jays for the peanuts. Nature in the raw can be pretty damn ugly!

Okay, I've probably mentioned this many times before, but the bi-weekly grocery shopping calls for a brutal review of the contents of my fridge. Living alone, I am constantly worried about keeping leftovers "too long". So, every two weeks, on "full-grocery shopping" day, I pour out any remaining milk, buttermilk, half-half and/or heavy cream, sour cream, bread, etc. I review the "use by" labels on all my shredded cheeses, salad dressings, mayo and so forth. I also pitch any old leftover food containers (like mashed potatoes, chili, soup, etc.) still in the fridge.

So, I do all that, but now I'm at a quandary. What about the Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup I made for my Mom? As I reported, I messed up by dredging the beef with flour before searing it. I have tasted it, and adjusted it all week long. And, it's really "okay" but do I really want to take her some soup that's just "okay"? I hem and haw for a while, then decide, screw it, its not good enough for my Mom, so in the trash it (and about 4 or 6 hours of work) goes.

So, now I have a problem. I may or may not be able to drive to see Mom tomorrow (they are now predicting 8-12 inches of blowing, drifting snow for Sunday) but, if I can, what soup can I bring her?

I do know she loves beef and barley soup (and she makes the best!) and I was pretty set on bringing her some. But, there's a problem. I don't have enough of my homemade chicken stock left. So, I check, and there are two packs of beef short ribs in the freezer (remember, I share the contents with Jake and Carla) so, I take one out to thaw. Meanwhile, I thaw out another � round streak, too.

I also decided (before shopping) to make potato soup for Mom, using Jake's recipe. Since it's his, not mine, and I did not ask permission, I will not reproduce it here. The big difference, though, is in using baby redskin potatoes, peeled and oven roasted. However, Kroger did not have "baby" redskins, so instead of me peeling the 20 or 30 potatoes he had to, I only peeled and cut up six big redskins! I am sure there will be a subtle taste difference, but, hey, I just couldn't get them! Honest!!

Meanwhile, I put some oil in my 5-quart Dutch oven and when it was heated, I braised the 6 beef short ribs on all sides. After that, I put them into my stock pot and added 3 quarts of cold water. I poured out the oil, and then deglazed the Dutch oven with dry vermouth. After scraping up the good brown bits, I poured that into the stock pot as well. I decided to go with the old-style stock method, as used by me, my brother Carl and every line chef I ever knew, for time immemorial, so I rough-chopped celery, two onions, 5 cloves of garlic and 3 carrots and four dried bay leafs and threw it in the water. I added the seared beef short ribs, hit boil, and then put it on simmer at 2:00 PM. I'll either pull it off around 9:00 PM or let it go all night. This will give me the meat (plus the cut up round steak) and stock plus extra beef stock for the freezer.

Back to the potato soup. I clean out the Dutch oven and render the required amount of bacon and then add the onion and, later, the garlic and thyme. Meanwhile, I am oven roasting 4 pounds of cut up (large) peeled redskin potatoes (tossed with olive oil and salt and pepper). My emailed recipe speaks of 450 degrees F. oven temp and "until tender" So, I set the timer for 20 minutes and keep checking every 5 minutes afterward. It turns out to be over 40 minutes in my oven, and at that, the tops of the potatoes have all turned brown. I pull them out and set them to cool.

Meanwhile, I have added the 4 cups of homemade chicken stock (which leaves me with only four frozen cups left!). I took out about � quarter of the "most obviously roasted" potatoes, cut them into cubes and reserved them. I like "chunks" in my potato soup and these look really cool!

The rest go into the simmering soup. Here my emailed recipe calls for hand mashing them and so I do, for a bit. But, unlike Jake, I have other options! So, I get the immersion blender out and puree the f*ck out of this. So, you can't "see" the onion, bacon and/or potatoes, but you can taste them. I add the reserved potato chunks and let it simmer for another hour to get happy. This is perfect! Mom will love it!!! And, I must admit, kudos to Jake, as this is perhaps the best potato soup I have ever tasted! If it was any other potato soup, I would recommend adding shredded cheddar cheese to the top of each bowl, but believe me, this doesn't need it!

So, now its 9:00 PM and I do a quick check outside. Not sure when it started again, but the ground is now completely covered with snow. I can't see any grass, now. After reflection, I decide that the beef stock still tastes a bit "light" so I will simmer it overnight. It could be I added too much water at the beginning.

So, for my dinner, it's the last of the pasties and a bowl of Jake's potato soup. And, I watch TV until bedtime!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

In my own defense

Old Hippie

~Bellamy Brothers

He turned thirty-five last Sunday
In his hair he found some gray
But he still ain't changed his lifestyle
He likes it better the old way
So he grows a little garden in the back yard by the fence
He's consuming what he's growing nowadays in self defense
He get's out there in the twilight zone
Sometimes when it just don't make no sense

He gets off on country music
Cause disco left him cold
He's got young friends into new wave
But he's just too friggin' old
And he dreams at night of Woodstock and the day John Lennon died
How the music made him happy and the silence made him cry
Yeah he thinks of John sometimes
And he has to wonder why

He's an old hippie and he don't know what to do
Should he hang on to the old
Should he grab on to the new
He's an old hippie...his new life is just a bust
He ain't trying to change nobody
He's just trying real hard to adjust

He was sure back in the sixties that everyone was hip
Then they sent him off to Vietnam on his senior trip
And they forced him to become a man while he was still a boy
And in each wave of tragedy he waited for the joy
Now this world may change around him
But he just can't change no more

He's an old hippie and he don't know what to do
Should he hang on to the old
Should he grab on to the new
He's an old hippie... his new life is just a bust
He ain't trying to change nobody
He's just trying real hard to adjust

Well he stays away a lot now from the parties and the clubs
And he's thinking while he's joggin' 'round
Sure is glad he quit the hard drugs
Cause him and his kind get more endangered everyday
And pretty soon the species will just up and fade away
Like the smoke from that torpedo... just up and fade away

He's an old hippie and he don't know what to do
Should he hang on to the old
Should he grab on to the new
He's an old hippie... his new life is just a bust
He ain't trying to change nobody
He's just trying real hard to adjust.

Friday Night Fun

Well, "fun" might be stretching it, lol! But the alliteration was good, right?

Got home and changed clothes, then went through my usual Friday night and payday routine. First, I started a load of clothes while I made up my weekend To do list. I've got a busy Saturday as, in addition to the routine grocery stores and the feed store, etc., I have to get my haircut and also pickup my new eyeglasses. Next came my grocery list (a combination of the list I keep next to the fridge of things I run out of and the ingredients needed for recipes I plan to try in the upcoming two weeks).

I talked briefly with Luanne about Christmas ideas. I took a picture of the Quiche Lorraine and posted it, but actually ate another one of the pasties for my dinner.

I watched TV, but went to bed around 10:30 PM, after watching the weather. They are forecasting a whopper of a winter storm between Saturday night and Sunday, with 6-10 inches of snow, blowing and drifting with very cold temps. Somebody remind me, when does winter start again? Another week?

Friday, December 14, 2007

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The Quiche Lorraine

Thursday Night

I stopped on the way home to get some milk at Meijer's, so of course I picked up some other things, too. Note to Self: Until after the Holiday season, shop at Kroger's. Too many shoppers! I got home, unpacked, changed clothes and then checked the phone. I had missed a call from Luanne at 5:30.

Now, I must mention that, for one reason or another only a cat would understand, Caley and Scruffy are at each others throats today. While I was changing clothes in the bedroom, I heard a bunch of hissing and yowling in the kitchen. Then, Caley came into the bedroom like a shot and jumped on the bed. She was followed by a totally pissed Scruffy and they started fighting on my bed. So, I smacked both of them and yelled at them to knock it off.

I went into the living room and turned on the Christmas tree lights and the fireplace and then called Luanne back. Scruffy was sitting on the back of the love seat. We talked a while about family and rabbits and goats and then, Caley ran in from the kitchen, jumped up on the loveseat and started pounding on Scruffy. I yelled, "Knock it off, you two!" They both jumped down and ran away (probably remembering that smack in the bedroom.

At which point, Lu asked who I was talking to, and I learned to my surprise I had never mentioned Caley to her before! So, I explained who Caley was and how she came to live here. I did apologize for not bringing her up, but honestly, writing this blog everyday gives me the impression (perhaps falsely) that everybody knows everything about me.

So, now for dinner. After last night's debacle, I must make amends to the cooking gods. So, I decided to make a French classic, Quiche Lorraine. I picked up a pre-made pie crust, though, so I don't lose my "Foodie" title by baking too much.

I prepped the pie crust by lining it with a double layer of tinfoil and baked in a preheated 450 degrees F. (230 degrees C.) oven for 8 minutes. Then I removed the foil and baked it 4 more minutes. Pulled it out and turned the oven down to 325 degrees F. (165 degrees C.)

I cut 6 slices of bacon into 1/2 inch pieces and rendered them until nicely brown (not crunchy, though - I hate crunchy bacon!) I pulled them out and reserved 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease in the skillet. I saut�ed one chopped, medium onion in that until tender and then pulled the onion off and set it with the bacon.

Next, I mixed together 3 beaten eggs, 1 1/2 cups of milk and 1/4 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl I mixed together 1 1/2 cups of shredded Swiss cheese and a tablespoon of flour. I added the cheese to the egg mixture and filled up the pie shell. I baked it for 40 minutes, and let it cool for 10 minutes more. It was beautiful! And, tasted great! Writing this, I wish now I'd taken a picture, but it was late and I was hungry!

I watched TV until 10:30 and went to bed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sunshine on my Shoulders...

Sunshine today!!! I almost forgot what that looked like! It brightened up my whole Wednesday.

When I got home, I started a load of laundry, turned on the dishwasher and put the beginnings of the Beef, Mushroom and Barley soup back on the stove to warm up.

The other day, my friend B___ and I were discussing, of all things, Beef Stroganoff. That got my taste buds tingling. So, I also have a pound of this year's beef order hamburger in cold water to thaw for my dinner. It's a sort of "mock beef stroganoff" - one step above Hamburger Helper and one step below making the real thing. It's sort of a Sandra Lee "Semi-Homemade" thing (but not her recipe).

BTW, I did stop and take a picture Tuesday night of one of my pasties for poor Anonymous! He gives new meaning to the words "food porn!" And, yes, that is a real term, describing photos of food so delicious looking you almost... well, they are REALLY mouthwatering, okay? My God! Food porn? What a country we live in!!!

So, back to the soup. I wish now I hadn't dredged the beef in flour/house seasoning mix. Why? Because the broth is really thick and I wanted it more like consomm� (to start with, anyway). But, on the other hand, that's okay, because they want Mom to eat thick stuff.

While it's warming up, I make up the mirepoix: 2 cups of a sweet onion, chopped, two carrots, cut to a small (1/4 inch) dice and two celery stalks, also cut to a small dice (I cheated here, BTW. You remember me buying a ton of celery and parsley to practice my knife skills? Well, I used the small diced celery I froze back then, in an equal amount to the carrot).

I saut�d that in olive oil and butter for about 20 minutes before adding an 8-ounce tray of regular white button mushrooms, sliced thick (recipe calls for 1 1/2 pounds of sliced Crimini, but you use what you got... I can always add them later if necessary).

I tossed that around for another 10 minutes or so and then added 3/4 cup of pearl barley. I let that get happy for a couple of minutes and then added it all to the simmering beef and stock mixture. That has to simmer for about another 40 minutes, so, I took a break to write all this down.

After the barley was done I did several taste tests and seasoning adjustments. I am trying NOT to use salt (it's for my Mom, after all) and its throwing me off a bit. I added some fresh ground pepper, tasted, no, not right. Thinking... thinking... Added a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and, okay, its damn close! Another teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and it's so close!!! A tablespoon or so of kosher salt and it would be over the top, but I resist the urge and call it, not perfect, but very good.

I called my brother Jim, regarding an email my brother Joe sent about the modifications required to Mom's house before bringing her home (in 10 days), but just got his voicemail. I left a message and hopefully he will call me.

While the soup is cooling, I start my dinner. I browned the hamburger ad added a sliced onion. When that was ready, I added two cans of cream of mushroom soup and a cup of sour cream. While that bubbled away, I made some wide egg noodles and then plated it.

Result? Tasted like crap!!! I ate about 5 forkfuls because I was hungry, but the rest went into the garbage disposal. Note to self: If you want the real thing, MAKE the real thing, dammit!

Now, I'm hungry, my legs are sore from standing so long and I'm tired. So, no TV, no reading, I went straight to bed and sleep at 9:30 PM.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

LMAO!!!

In the middle of making my Mom's soup and my dinner, they played Cheech and Chong's Santa Claus Bit on WCSX. I stopped, sat on the couch and laughed my ass off!

"They lived in the projects with a bunch of midgets..."

"His old lady made the best brownies!"

"Wait a minute! How's he do all that?" "What?" "Like make himself small and get the reindeer off?" "Ah, he had some magic dust! A little for Santa, a little for the reindeer, a little more for Santa..."

"I played with that dude!" "No, man, Santa wasn't a musician!" "You're tell me! That dude didn't, like, know any songs..."

Bless them boys!

Rest in Peace, Brother...

Ike Turner, whose role as one of rock's critical architects was overshadowed by his ogrelike image as the man who brutally abused former wife Tina Turner, died Wednesday at his home in suburban San Diego. He was 76.

Turner managed to rehabilitate his image somewhat in later years, touring around the globe with his band the Kings of Rhythm and drawing critical acclaim for his work. He won a Grammy in 2007 in the traditional blues album category for "Risin' With the Blues."

But his image is forever identified as the drug-addicted, wife-abusing husband of Tina Turner. He was hauntingly portrayed by Laurence Fishburne in the movie "What's Love Got To Do With It," based on Tina Turner's autobiography.

In a 2001 interview with The Associated Press, Turner denied his ex-wife's claims of abuse and expressed frustration that he had been demonized in the media while his historic role in rock's beginnings had been ignored.

Don't matter to me. You just listen to some of the songs they did together (say, Proud Mary) and it's magic. RIP, Ike!

Tuesday's Tale...

So, today, when I took the garbage out at 6:00 AM, the weather was doing "nothing" for a change and it stayed that way on the way into work. About 9:00 AM, it started with freezing rain, but by 10:00 AM, it was just rain and it rained off and on the rest of the day.

I noticed yesterday there were still a few "holes" in my decoration of the little tree (Damn my obsession with Germanic precision, anyway!) so at lunch, I convinced my lunch partner to stop at Michaels and I picked up three 1-inch nut crackers and a tray of miniature (less than 1/2 inch tall) wooden ornaments.

I stopped at CVS on the way home and got two more Christmas cards since my other box of cards went into the "San Jose black hole." Now, remember, we have talked about this. Things just disappear and then reappear at will around here. I bought two boxes of Christmas cards (I have the receipt, dammit!) I used one. The other one is, apparently, no longer in this dimension (no kidding! I've search this house from top to bottom and... THEY ARE NOT HERE!)

Anyway, upon arriving home and then changing clothes, I filled out the last two cards and got them ready to mail tomorrow. Next I put on some water to boil. When it was ready, I put three cups of boiling water over approximately 1 1/2 ounces of dried mushrooms (mostly dried porcini and then some of the dried shitake mushrooms Luanne gave me last time she was here). I set the timer for 20 minutes and went to decorate the tree (again). Bingo! Now, it looks right!

Okay, so back to my Mom's next soup. I used a combination of stewing beef and round steak and made 1-inch cubes. I dredged them in flour and house seasoning and then browned them in hot oil, in small batches. Then I strained the reconstituted mushrooms through a sieve and a handkerchief and added that water to the pot, along with 8 cups of homemade chicken stock.

I rinsed and then sliced the mushrooms (not easy, BTW, as they wiggle a lot once reconstituted) very fine and added them to the pot as well. I brought it to a boil, and then let it simmer.

At that point, my daughter Melissa called. And, as usual, we talked forever. By the time we hung up, finishing the soup would have kept me up past my bedtime. So, I stopped it at that point, let it cool and put it in the fridge.

And, hey, what about my dinner? I'm not about to make dinner this late, so I just heated up the sausage and biscuits from Sunday's brunch and ate that, then went to bed.

Re: The Captain Rants...

As often happens in life, the Captain thought better about it in the morning and deleted those two posts. Thanks for your thoughtful comments, but they did not change my postion. However, Piece Offerings is not the appropriate forum for this discussion.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

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For my poor anonymous friend, who's been looking for pasties in all the wrong places. Here's what a Cornwall/Upper Michigan pastie looks like! I hope you took my advice and deleted your browsing history before your Mom, girlfriend, wife or boss checked, lol!

Monday

I stand corrected! When I left for work there was, in fact, ice everywhere. Jake later explained it as there was no freezing "rain" per se, it was more like a fog. It wasn't a problem on my drive or street, as both are gravel and the ice just wasn't that thick. However, Jake said his paved drive and street were like ice rinks. The main roads were salted at 7:00 AM, so there wasn't much of a problem driving to work.

The ride home was likewise uneventful. Once there, I changed clothes and decided to relax tonight (my right knee is still killing me).

For dinner, I had the last bowl of the split pea soup I made for my Mom, and then reheated another pastie. I watched some TV (Bing Crosby's "White Christmas") and then read until bedtime.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 4 cups of whole milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half with two cloves stuck in each half
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup grated mild Cheddar cheese
  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, cubed (sold as snack cubes at Kroger)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Pepper Jack cheese (I grated this myself)
  • 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup of Panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons of melted butter
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
Directions

Cook the macaroni in a large pot of boiling salted water until done, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain and toss it with 2 tablespoons butter; set aside.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a large baking dish with butter and set it aside. Put the milk and heavy cream into a saucepan and add the clove studded onion, garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and mustard. Warm over medium low heat until the milk starts to steam, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the flavors infuse while you make the roux.

In a large pot over medium heat add 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons of the flour. Cook, stirring, for about 2 to 3 minutes; don't let the roux color. Strain the infused milk onto the roux, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes until the sauce is thick. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 the grated Cheddar, all the Pepper Jack and 1/2 the Parmesan; stir until it is melted and smooth (I used my immersion blender). Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Pour this over the macaroni, add the chunks of Cheddar, and mix until well blended; put this into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining Cheddar and Parmesan cheeses evenly over the top. Mix the bread crumbs, parsley and melted butter and then sprinkle over the cheese.

Bake until the top is golden and crusty, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Pasties

Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 pound boneless round or chuck steak, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cubes (try and mimic your beef cube size)
  • 1 medium to large onion, sliced
  • 1/2 of a peeled rutabaga, (same amount as potatoes and same size cubes)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of dried parsley flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper (or to taste)
Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour and salt. Cut in shortening with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the water until mixture forms a ball. Wrap the ball in Saran Wrap and refrigerate at least 15 to 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine meat, potatoes, onion and rutabagas. Season with the dried parsley, salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (200 degrees C.)

Now there are cooks and foodies out there who, at this time, will be tempted to add a diced carrot. I swear if you do and I hear about it, I will come to your house and slap you! I grew up with a Yooper neighbor and that is NOT an ingredient of true Cornwall or upper Michigan pasties. That’s only in the crap they sell to tourists! If your idea of pasties includes either ground beef or carrots, then you have been hoodwinked! Don’t make me come and find you!!

Anyway, take out the dough, divide it in four or six pieces (depending on the size of pastie you want) and shape into balls. Using a floured rolling pin and a floured surface, roll the dough into a pie-thickness round circle. Place the filling on one half of the circle, and then fold the other half over the filling. Crimp the edges to seal in the filling.

Cut three slits in the top of each pastie and put two (or three) each on either a greased baking sheet or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove from the oven, and reduce heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.) While they are out of the oven, spoon 1 teaspoon of water into each slit on the tops of the pasties (this helps to make the “gravy”). Brush the tops with milk and then return to the oven at the 350 degrees F. for an additional 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve whole (my favorite), or cut in half.

Sunday on San Jose

I went back to bed and slept until 6:30 AM, Sunday morning. Still no ice or sleet or anything! I am hoping this storm missed us, but a check of the Weather Channel indicates its still coming...

I decided that, besides the usual cleaning and washing, today's the day to get some Christmas into this house. So, I decided no breakfast this morning. I'll do a nice brunch and then Sunday supper. I took a shower but no shave and got to work.

At 10:00 AM, my tummy started complaining, so I began my brunch. It will be white sausage (or Sawmill) gravy over biscuits. So, I browned the pork sausage and removed it with a slotted spoon, used the grease and some flour to make a roux, slowly added milk (still vigorously whisking), brought that to a boil and then simmered for two minutes. I reintroduced the pork sausage and seasoned to taste with fresh ground pepper.

I let that get happy while I made the baking powder biscuits. I tried something different this time. Instead of making the dough by hand (working in the cold butter until it's the size of a pea, etc.), I made the whole dough in my food processor. Quick and easy!!

Now that I know the tri-fold secret to get homemade biscuits to rise like the Pillsbury Dough Boy's, I did my thing, cut them out and brushed the tops with cream. In the 450 degree F. oven they went until golden brown (about 14 minutes, in my oven). I took them out and put them on a rack to cool. I took a photo so you can see what I mean about getting them to rise!

BTW, for those who say, "Well, using the food processor may be faster, but cleanup is a b*tch." I don't put any of the food processor components in the dishwasher (after Jake and Carla broke theirs that way) and I had the whole mess hand-washed and cleaned up before the biscuits were done baking.

So, brunch was excellent (I did need to add a bit more pepper) and now it's back to work. If you remember, I bought a two foot Rosemary plant, shaped like a Christmas tree for a little different look for this year's Christmas. What I didn't mention was that, later, I also bought some miniature ornaments, a tree top star, a string of lights, etc. for this. Yes, I was geeked! Well, for some reason early last week, the damn plant died! I noticed a few brown branches one day and frantically checked the water, etc. Within two more days, the whole thing was brown and dead. So, Friday, I stopped and bought a little imitation tree and my project today is to get that up and decorated on top my mantle.

I also decided I didn't like the big, low swags on the porch railing, so I added another anchor point (lol, a nail) in the middle of each existing anchor point (nail) and thus brought the swag up higher. I'll take a picture for you when I can.

The tree is done, so now its time to brace the cold attic and get down a few more things. That done (and I am noticing, or maybe just think, I seem to be missing a few items...) I close up the attic and limp into the kitchen. Those damn attic steps are killing my right knee. Yes, I said the RIGHT one. Why? I dunno, but I am definitely gonna ask my orthopedic surgeon about it when I see him in March.

Laundry is all done and folded or hung up and the bed has been remade with fresh washed linens. One thing left before I take my (now) long-awaited nap for this weekend. I must make the pie crusts for the pasties I am making for Sunday dinner.

So, I cut in 1 1/2 cups of butter-flavored shortening (hey, it was in the cupboard, why not use it?) into 3 1/2 cups of flour and add 1 cup cold water. I make the ball, wrap it in saran wrap and pop it in the fridge. Its 3:20 PM (still no ice or even snow here, BTW) and I head into bed, but set the alarm for 5:00 PM, just in case. Oh, damn, I forgot, I still have to download and post the biscuits and Christmas decoration pictures! Okay, so that's done, now for a nap!

I thought I didn't sleep at all, but I did wake up to the alarm. I shook off my sleep and got back to the rest of tonight's dinner, pasties. I really think I got it this time, and if it turns out as well as I hope, I'll have the Webmaster post the recipe for you! I did, however, notice a funny thing. For a person who insisted he's just a cook or a foodie and "doesn't bake" I sure did a lot of baking this weekend!

So, its almost 7:00 PM and dinner is almost done. I am thinking its time for me to take a break and enjoy the few remaining hours of this rather frantic weekend.

At 7:01 I took out the cookie sheets and let them cool. I am officially done for the weekend, now. Finally, the taste test... YES!!! I think I got it!!! I can now, without fear or regret, say I have replicated the pasties of my youth. Webmaster, time permitting, please post the recipe!

I had a lot of difficulty staying awake through my two Sunday shows, so I turned off the TV and turned in for the night at 10:00 PM (after I put the other three, now cooled, pasties in baggies and then the fridge).

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Cautionary Tale

I try and remember this every time I get the urge to discuss "back in the day" stuff...

GLORY DAYS
~ Bruce Springsteen

had a friend was a big baseball player
back in high school
He could throw that speedball by you
Make you look like a fool, boy
Saw him the other night at this roadside bar
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
but all he kept talking about was

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

Well there's a girl that lives up the block
back in school she could turn all the boy's heads
Sometimes on a Friday I'll stop by
and have a few drinks after she put her kids to bed
Her and her husband Bobby well they split up
I guess it's two years gone by now
We just sit around talking about the old times,
she says when she feels like crying
she starts laughing thinking about

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

My old man worked 20 years on the line
and they let him go
Now everywhere he goes out looking for work
they just tell him that he's too old
I was 9 nine years old and he was working at the
Metuchen Ford plant assembly line
Now he just sits on a stool down at the Legion hall
but I can tell what's on his mind

Glory days yeah goin back
Glory days aw he ain't never had
Glory days, glory days

Now I think I'm going down to the "Well" tonight
and I'm going to drink till I get my fill
And I hope when I get old I don't sit around thinking about it
but I probably will
Yeah, just sitting back trying to recapture
a little of the glory of, well time slips away
and leaves you with nothing mister but
boring stories of glory days

Glory days well they'll pass you by
Glory days in the wink of a young girl's eye
Glory days, glory days

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Christmas decoration #2 (you may need to enlarge some of the dark ones to view, then use your Browser's return button to get back to Photo's. Sorry!)

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Christmas decoration #3

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Christmas decoration #4

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Christmas decoration #4

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Christmas decoration #5

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Christmas decoration #6

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Christmas decoration #7

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Christmas decoration #8

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Sunday morning biscuits (eat my dust, Pillsbury doughboy!)

Missed Milestone

I just belatedly learned that December 5 was the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition in the United States.

I echo the thoughts I heard on TV: Thanks to all the unsung heroes, men and women, who worked tirelessly to repeal this repressive law. We salute you and thank you from the bottom of our glasses!

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Here's the back of St. Peter and Paul Jesuit Church (photo courtesy of Webmaster)