Monday, September 30, 2013

Road Trip!

I slept in until 7:00 a.m. (finally)! I got a cup of coffee and eased into the day.  I filled out the Blog entry and processed my photos while listening to the morning news.

I did the “refill pillbox” thing and rewound the clock. Then I made myself some soft scrambled eggs with rye toast for breakfast.

I cleaned up from breakfast and then got started on making the Coney island chili, my part in Melissa’s grand plan for the family reunion.

Now, I had hoped just to find a knock-off recipe for say, National Coney Island chili. But, no! These are kept as secret as the recipe for Coca Cola! There are plenty of so-called “just like” recipes, but all contained weird ingredients (like beef hearts) that I am reasonably sure are NOT used.

So, I found one that was four star rated and sounded about right and was going with that. Now, I tripled the recipe, but will give you the steps and ingredients as though I was just making one batch.

First, of course was the prep work. I chopped three (oops, I did it already, dammit) ONE large onion and minced two garlic cloves. These went into separate bowls, BTW. Then I made my dry mix (I prefer to mix my spices and herbs in a bowl first, rather than adding them individually to a pot. I think it gives you a more even distribution).

I put in one tablespoon of sugar, one tablespoon of dried, minced onions (I question the need for that, but…), two teaspoons of chili powder, one teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed, 1/2 heaping teaspoon of ground cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper. I mixed all that together thoroughly and set it aside.

Then I browned one pound of ground chuck. Half way through the browning process, I added my chopped onions. And, right at the end, I added the garlic.

Sidebar: Since I was tripling the recipe, I used my 12-inch skillet and three pounds of ground chuck. But, I realized at the end there wasn’t going to be enough room to add the liquid ingredients, so I transferred the meat to my Dutch oven and washed the skillet. Way to make more work for yourself, John!

I drained the grease (there wasn’t much) and, as I said, put everything into the Dutch oven. To that, I added one cup of water, one six-ounce can of tomato paste, one tablespoon of prepared yellow mustard and one teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce. Then I put in the dry ingredients. I mixed that thoroughly (after having to switch to my left hand as the circular motion hurt my right shoulder) while I brought it to a boil.

Then I turned the burner to low and simmered it for 15 minutes. I taste-tested it. Since I don’t eat that many chili dogs (or at least haven’t had one in a really long time) I was not really sure if it was spot on. But, it tasted really good! Not too mild, not too hot (although it did have a spicy aftertaste).

I transferred it to the round slow cooker and set it on “low.” Then I washed the Dutch oven and the ladle. After about 30 minutes, I turned the slow cooker to “warm.”

It began raining here about 10:00 a.m. but it’s not supposed to be an all-day thing. I didn’t really care if it rains at the park, but was just hoping it wasn’t raining during my drive there.

I started shaving and showering just after 11:00 a.m. I loaded up the chili and a serving spoon. This time, however, I put the slow cooker in a box, lined with a garbage bag and wedged with towels. Last year, if you remember, there was an ugly incident with spillage. I also brought two large cans of mixed nuts to put in bowls on each table for snacking

I left around noon and was grateful the rain had stopped. I thought I was being smart by avoiding I-94 as long as I could (I had heard there were weekend closures where it went down to one lane in several spots). So I took Telegraph to I-696 to I-94. Unfortunately, it was still only one lane at the junction of I-696 and I-94. So, I sat in traffic for a good 20 minutes. Long enough to call my Brother Carl and let him know (via Colin) that I was delayed, in case Melissa, Dave and Amy showed up first and wondered where I was.

Also, I forgot to mention that, while the rain had stopped at my house, I literally drove into it on the trip to New Baltimore. But, it had more or less died out by the time I got to the park.

I did finally get there (and did beat Dave and my girls). I had somebody slide a picnic table over to the wall, where there was a plug for the slow cooker and so Dave could set up his portable grille.

Jeremy was already there while Jyl and Riese came separately a little bit later.

Melissa, Dave and Amy showed up and it was great to actually see them again. It literally has been years!!! They quickly set everything up and for the first time we had food both inside and outside. It worked out well, because the food inside was overflowing the table.

It was great to see my brothers and all the rest of the family again, but there were two additional special guests: My sister-in-law Jean and my brother-in-law Terry, neither of whom I have seen in years as well!

The chili dogs seemed to be a big hit. I had one and it was excellent! I only put chili, onions and yellow mustard on mine, but there were also sauerkraut, jalapeno peppers, pickle relish and other condiments as well.

And, despite both Amy and Melissa’s concerns, I noticed that they remembered more people’s names than I did!

I was tempted by a lot of the food, but ate only one other thing. My niece Mary made “Spicy Tuscan Soup” and it was excellent! I asked her for the recipe and she sent it to me later on Facebook. Thanks again, Mary.

Finally, people started leaving and we started cleaning up. There were some tense moments while we all searched for Dave’s car keys, but I eventually found them! I sent the rest of the chili (along with my slow cooker and my two towels) home with Dave and Melissa. There is no way I would ever eat all of that! And, retrieving my slow cooker and towels will give me an excuse to visit them.

I did take one unopened jar of mixed nuts and four pieces of pizza Cathy sent home with me.

I made my goodbyes and told everyone I’d see them next year (and with most of them, sadly, that is true). Unfortunately, the rain had started back up. So, it was a 50 mile ride in the rain.

I got home around 5:30 p.m. and treated the cats. Then I changed clothes and started the last load of laundry.

I ate the pizza while waiting for the last episode (ever) of Breaking Bad. When it was over, I was exhausted. I took one more muscle relaxer and went to bed.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

How the barometer works

Saturday afternoon

Sunday morning, as a cold front comes through

Saturday, in the Park, I Think It was the Fourth of July…

(that I last had the time to go to a park, LOL!)

I woke up at the usual time and said, “This is Bullshit!” Yes, I actually said, “This is Bullshit!” So, I went back to sleep until 7:00 a.m.

I filled in the Blog entry and then got on with my morning. I shaved showered and was going to get dressed. But, before I could get dressed the phone rang. (WTF? Everybody knows better than to call me on a Saturday morning errand day!) It was my daughter Melissa, who called to let me know she had all the fixings (and I mean way more that even I would have thought of) for our combined chili dog spread tomorrow. She was either bragging or just worried about the chili sauce I have yet to make, LOL!

Then, I got dressed and headed out. First came Costco. I needed to stock up of toilet paper, paper towels and some peanuts for the squirrels this winter. Sadly, they don’t carry food coloring.

Next, I went to CVS to pick up a prescription. Since there weren’t any other pharmacy customers, I asked for and got my flu shot. They don’t carry food coloring, either…

So, I went to the closest grocery store. You remember that little food market on Beech Daly and Joy Road that I occasionally went to, but was closed for remodeling the last time I went? I figured it must be opened by now, and it was!

But, it had opened under new management. Instead of crowded little aisles and stuff in weird places, it was bright, clean, well laid out and airy. Instead of a butcher counter with a chubby old guy in a bloody apron and little old ladies with grey hair under hair nets serving you, there was a deli counter with prepackaged meat and young people behind it. And, now there’s a fresh bakery section and at least double the checkout lines.

I hated it.

But, they did have food coloring!!!

I went home and unpacked. Then I changed into work clothes and, well, got to work. First on my ToDo list was to dig up some iris for my Brother Carl. So, I did. I put two different varieties into two plastic grocery store bags. I added some mulch into each and then a glass of water apiece. That should keep them moist and alive until he gets a chance to plant them. Then I watered all the container gardens.

Back inside, I hit the next project. I put blue food coloring into a glass of water. Then, using the syringe and a teeny-tiny hose, I filled the barometer through the small opening, until the water was about an inch above where the spout joins the base. It took three times. Perfect! I cleaned up the mess, rinsed out the syringe and the little hose and put them safely away, in case I ever need them again. 

What it looked like when I got it

What it looks like completed

Then it was time to tackle today’s main project: Cleaning the entire house. I admit I’ve been ignoring that for weeks (just doing spot-cleaning), working on other (more interesting and fun) things. But, first, I was hungry, so I made another pulled pork sandwich and had some lunch (I missed breakfast).

Then I started in the living room. I dusted everything, got the cat hair off the couch, loveseat and chairs, washed the glass candle holders and so on. Then I vacuumed the floor and rug.

Finally, I oiled all the wood furniture. It’s a good thing Jake and Carla aren’t here, because they hated that! I never really knew why, but since it keeps old wood from cracking, it’s rather necessary.

I had to leave the oil sit for 30 minutes before I could put things back on it (and then I still have to wash all the glass tops in there as well), so I moved to the kitchen. I dusted each chair and moved it into the living room. Then I did the same to the little rolling cart. Now I had room to work!

I glanced at the clock and was amazed it was 4:00 p.m.! So, I stopped for a bit to water the grass seed outback.

There was a lot of hammering going on. My neighbor (the one who made my shed) is building “something.” When I noticed it a few days ago, I thought he was adding on to the garage he has way in back. But now that he’s got the roof on, I can see it’s a separate building next to the garage. Car port? Tall Tiki hut? I’d ask him, but he’s busy and so am I. I took a photo for you, but the sun was in the wrong place.

I filled up the squirrel feeder. Not that they need the food now, with all the pine cones and black walnuts), I just wanted to remind them to check there every now and then in the winter. I got the camera and sat very still on the patio, half hidden by the raised herb garden. After a bit, the squirrels started coming.

Back inside, I got back to cleaning the kitchen. I dusted everything, and washed anything that seemed to have grease on it. Then I swept the floor and used the vacuum attachment to get under stuff. Finally, I washed the floor old-school style with a sponge mop, Pine Sol in a bucket of hot water and elbow grease.

It was the elbow grease that got me! I was almost done when I was pushing the mop hard. I heard an actual “pop,” my right shoulder went numb for a second and then started hurting like hell! Damn! I’d been taking muscle relaxers since I messed it up Thursday night and it was feeling better. WTF?

So, I finished the floor left-handed.

I swept the bathroom floor and then moved onto the bedroom while the kitchen floor dried. I moved the bed all around so I could vacuum the entire floor and shoved the vacuum attachment under everything.

When I finished, the kitchen floor was dry. So, since I could now get to the downstairs bathroom, I washed the main bathroom floor.

By then, it was after 8:00 p.m. and I was tired and hungry again. So. I warmed up the rest of the Salisbury steak and rutabagas. I ate that watching the last Red Wings exhibition game. The game finished after 10:00 p.m. and I went to bed.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Finally Friday

Friday reminded me that even perfect Fall weather can get boring, LOL!

I filled up my gas tank at lunch. Gasoline prices are still going down. Regular gas at the station I went to was only $3.32 a gallon! It does seem a bit funny when you stop and think that it wasn’t that long ago we were afraid gas prices “might” hit $3.00 a gallon.

Sidebar: I heard on the news this morning that the lowest gas prices in the whole US can be found in South Carolina!

After work, I changed clothes and went out back. I watered all the grass seed that felt like it needed it. Then I went out front and hooked up the big electric leaf blower to a 100-foot cord. I blew off the porch and then tackled the driveway. Unfortunately, this was a bit more difficult than usual, as the wind was blowing from the southeast. Since I was blowing them (or trying to blow them) out to the road (east) and then over to the vacant lot (south), that was a problem! I finally got it done, although I must admit a lot ended up on my lawn or rolling down the road instead of in the vacant lot.

I was back inside about 7:00 p.m. and went to assemble the barometer. I got it all together (no problem) and went to fill it. You have to fill it with a syringe, BTW. But, when I went to mix up some colored water, I couldn’t find my food coloring! Now, I may let the house get messy when focusing on a project, but ever since I reorganized them, my cupboards are always pristine! The only thing I can think of is I threw the little bottles of food coloring out (I did have some) when I went through the reorganization. Dammit!

I put food coloring on the shopping list and then started dinner. For some weird reason, I wanted to make Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy.

My side dish was going to be rutabagas (I've been craving them). So, I peeled it, cut the ball into one-inch slices and cut the slices into one-inch cubes. The cubes went into salted water and, after boiling, left to simmer for about 45 minutes.

Next, I started my prep work. First, I minced two cloves of garlic. Then I grated about 1/3 cup of an onion. Note: if you tear up when chopping an onion, you should try grating one! Half-blinded, I combined one-half of the grated onion with a pound of ground chuck, the garlic, a pinch of salt and some fresh ground black pepper. I shaped the mixture into four 1/2-inch thick patties.

I heated my 12-inch non-stick skillet to medium high, added the patties and cooked them about three minutes on each sides until browned. Then I removed them and set them aside.

I turned the heat down a bit, melted a tablespoon of butter in the pan and eight ounces of cremini mushrooms. They were supposed to be quartered, but Kroger’s didn’t have whole ones, just sliced. I sauteed them for about four minutes. Then I stirred in 1/3 cup of dry red wine and the remaining grated onion. I let that cook another two minutes.

I combined 1 1/4 cups of beef stock with a tablespoon of A/P flour and whisked the hell out of it. I added that to the pan and brought it to a boil. I let that go, stirring constantly, about five minutes until the gravy thickened. Then I reintroduced the patties and a teaspoon of red wine vinegar. I cooked that for two more minutes.

I drained the rutabagas and plated some, topped with butter and salt, along with a patty covered in the mushroom gravy.

It was delicious! But, I wouldn’t want to lie to you, so just to make sure, I had a second helping. Yep! Delicious!

On the downside, I spent a good half hour cleaning up all the little prep bowls, box grater, skillet and so on that I dirtied up making this “delicious” creation.

I watched a little TV, but went to bed before 10:00 p.m.