Monday, June 30, 2014

Sunday Supper

I slept in until 5:49 a.m. on Sunday. I grabbed a cup of coffee and finished the Blog. On the news, they said it had rained overnight in the western counties, but it never rained here. I raced through the Sunday morning chores. Then I got started on dinner.

I have had a hankering for pulled pork sandwiches. But, it’s too hot to run the oven for hours. And smoking it would require dragging out the big grille from the shed and hours of tending to it. Since it’s supposed to rain around noon, that’s not an option, either. But, I found a recipe for pulled pork on your countertop, using the slow cooker!

Before I go on, I must tell you that the recipe called for a 3 1/2 pound bone-in pork shoulder roast (or Boston butt as it’s also called). Unfortunately, the smallest one I could get at Kroger’s was a whopping six pounds. Hopefully, you can find a smaller one. So, I will give you the ingredients for the regular recipe, although I doubled them.

For the spice rub, I mixed together two teaspoons of smoked paprika, one teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt. I trimmed off the excess fat (leaving some on, of course) and rubbed on the spice mix. I did this on a half sheet pan to contain the mess. I let that sit for a bit to get happy.

Then, I assembled my mise en place. I cut up two cups of yellow onions, sliced vertically and five garlic cloves, sliced thin. BTW, I used the two aluminum bowl method to peel the garlic. I love that trick!

Garlic, cornstarch slurry and yellow onions

I got out everything I would need: chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, molasses, soy sauce, crushed red pepper, corn starch, peach preserves (note: I could not find pure peach preserves, so I had to settle for Smucker’s Peach Apricot preserves) and a small bottle of bourbon.

I got my 12-inch skillet and coated it with canola spray. I turned it on medium-high and when it was heated, I put in the pork shoulder. I cooked it about 10 minutes, tuning it to brown all sides. This will give you the “bark” of a good ‘cue.

When it was done, I stuck it in my large slow cooker. It just barely fit!

I added 1/2 cup of chicken stock. 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/3 cup of molasses. 2 tablespoons soy sauce and one teaspoon of crush red pepper flakes into the skillet. I brought that up to a boil, scraping the pan to release the brown bits. Then I added 1/2 cup of the peach preserves, using a whisk to incorporate them. I poured the mixture over the pork and topped it with the onions and garlic. I covered that and turned the slow cooker on low. You need to cook the 3 1/2 pound roast 6 1/2 hours of until the pork is very tender. God only know how long a six pound roast will take! I’ll check it at 4:30 p.m.

Then I began the slow process of cleaning up the mess. Some things I hand washed, others went into the dishwasher.

My friend B___ called to let me know that Dunham’s was having a two-day sale on kayaks (I had told him how disappointed I was that I didn’t buy the one at Costco when they briefly carried them).

So, I finally shaved, showered and got dressed. While I was shaving, I was reminded again how crappy my razor is these days. It takes several passes to get all the little hairs. I know why. You are supposed to change the blades once a year and it’s been a lot longer than that this time. I have it on the calendar, but when I went to Meijer’s in January, they were all out. And, I guess I just forgot about them.

So, first I went to Meijer’s (they had them this time!) and bought some replacement blades. Then I went to Dunham’s.  The one I was hoping to see (a Pelican Ulitmate 100 SE for $189.00 – saving $140) they didn’t have, of course. But the sales guy gave me his name and said they should be getting another shipment in on Tuesday or Wednesday and he/they would honor the sales price.

There was another one I really liked (a Pelican Matrix 100 Angler) that had two flush-mount rod holders and one swivel one – perfect for fishing!) It was on sale as well, but was $299.00 (saving only $80). But, it doesn’t come with the paddle ($25-50) and I would need a life vest ($50+) so I decided to be frugal (dammit), seeing as I’ve already spend a lot on recreation (in the form of the motorcycle) this year.

Sidebar: I hate it when I act responsible!

I did pick up a new pair of crocs (my old ones were worn smooth, had chunks ripped out of the soles and the left strap broke this week) and a small game and gun deer license (don’t ask).

On the way back home, it was after 12:30 p.m., traffic had really picked up and the sky was dark and ominous. So, I missed the window to ride the bike today.

I changed clothes and started the last load of weekend wash. Then I went out to work in the garage for a while.

I had the sanding station outside and was working away, when the first big raindrops fell. I quickly moved everything inside. But the rain lasted only about five minutes! Then the sun came back out and it got even steamier.

I went back outside and started working. I finally finished the first sanding with 80 grit, so I have two more to go. But, I felt it was safe to start assembling at that point. I fired up the air compressor and got out the nail gun. I also got out the wood glue, drill motor, drill bits and deck screws. I took a moment to throw the laundry into the dryer.

I worked on assembly until 4:30 p.m. My final thing for the day was to drill a 1 1/4-inch hole through a 2x12 for a dowel I don’t have yet. It was a pain in the butt to (hopefully) keep the hole straight and true. I put all the tools away and blew the sawdust out of the garage. Then I set the saw horses to one side and pulled the truck back inside.

It was still sunny, so I hooked up the hose to the drip hose in the vegetable garden and turned it on. The threat of storms is only until 9:00 p.m. tonight and if it rains, oh well. The veggies need water!

Back inside, I mixed a bag of shredded cabbage with half a jar of Marzetti Original Slaw dressing. I covered the bowl with cling wrap and set it in the fridge to chill. Then I checked on my pork roast (it’s been smelling fantastic for a couple-three hours now). It was certainly ready! In fact, it was quite difficult to remove it from the slow cooker as it kept breaking apart.  But I finally got it all onto a half sheet pan and let it cool slightly. Meanwhile, I used a slotted spoon to get all the garlic and onions out of the broth.

Then I put the broth into my OXO Fat separator. Now, if you don’t have a fat separator, here’s what you can do: Put a large baggie into a four-cup glass measuring cup. Pour the liquid into the baggie and let it set for 10 minutes. The fat will rise to the top (as it does in my fat separator). Seal the bag and then snip off one bottom corner of the bag. Drain the drippings into the skillet, stopping before the fat reaches the opening. Then discard the fat.

However, as I said, I have a fat separator (I use it for gravies). So, I let it stand 76y4510 minutes and then poured the liquid into the skillet. I poured 1/4 cup of bourbon into the drippings and brought it to a boil. I cooked it 10 minutes until it reduced to about 1 1/2 cups.

While the drippings reduced, I used two forks to shred the pork (easy peasy). I moved the pork from the half sheet pan to my biggest bowl and mixed the onions and garlic back in.

Then I combined two tablespoons of cold water with two teaspoons of cornstarch in a small bowl and whisked it. I added that mixture to the reduced sauce, whisking constantly until it thickened. I drizzled the sauce over the pulled pork and tossed it gently to combine.

I sliced two of the dinner rolls open, added some pulled pork. I added a good squeeze of Sweet Baby Ray’s original barbecue sauce and topped that with my coleslaw.

I sat down and enjoyed the hell out of my Sunday supper!

Then came the part I didn’t enjoy: cleaning up the mess! I put the remaining pulled pork into containers. I ended up putting two four-cup containers in the freezer and 1+ four-cup container in the fridge. I ended up running the dishwasher again, but had to hand wash the slow cooker and the wooden cutting board. I cleaned the counter tops and the stove and then I was finally finished.

I went out and turned off the hose. I reeled it in after disconnecting the drip hose. Then I used the wand to water the raised bed herb garden. It was after 8:00 p.m. and the sun was still shining, BTW. Other than that five minute shower, it had been dry all damn day.

I went inside and got a few things ready for work on Monday. At 9:00 p.m., I watched the new episode of Mountain Men and then The Hunt. Finally, I went to bed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Saturday’s Story

I set the alarm for Saturday, as I had a full morning’s worth of errands. I had a cup of coffee and an English muffin for breakfast.

Something very weird happened next. I took off my glasses in the main bathroom and set them on the sink to shave. When I was done, I picked them up with my left hand (my right hand still held the shaver) and I picked up just one half! They broke cleanly on the bridge and the other half was still sitting on the sink!

Damn! I wonder if they come with a guarantee. I think I’ve only had them about seven months or so.

Anyway, I went out to the truck and got my old pair. Since my prescription only changes a little, if at all, I always keep the last pair in a hard case in the glove box for emergencies. And, this felt like an emergency!

I finished getting ready, loaded the cooler and an ice pack (for the perishables at the grocery store) and then left for my first stop, a massage. Margaret and I talked about current wood projects (she’s making new shutters for her house from reclaimed wood), travel plans and food. She gave me a great idea for tonight’s supper: Ham and Pea salad. She shared her personal recipe (minus exact measurements) and I decided to forgo the dinner I had planned and try it.

My stomach was making noises, so Margaret laughed and said I better go home and get some breakfast. I told I had already eaten, the problem was the four amoxicillin I had downed before going to the dentist.

From there I went to the gas station and filled the truck up. I checked the gas mileage and was bummed. When I trucked down the Interstate to South Carolina, I was getting 21-22 mpg. But in this stupid stop-and-go city driving, I’m only getting 15-16 mpg.

Next was the Post Office and then finally the dentist office on Ford Road for my six-month cleaning. I dislike all that scraping and probing, but everything was good, so I was glad.

It was after 11:00 a.m. when I left the dentist’s office. I headed west on Ford Road to Kroger’s. I was just getting some dinner rolls (to use for mini-buns) when an older lady with an oxygen tank on one of the handicap scooters ran into a display about six feet away from me. It was three wooden crates, filled with some "old time" soda pop in glass bottles. The top crate fell onto the floor and exploded. Something hit me hard, smack in the forehead (thank God it wasn’t on my glasses). I shook it off and looked at her. I asked her if she was hurt. She had her face in her hands, crying, and shook her head no.

I told her not to worry, everything was okay. Just then a young girl (well, I thought she was a young girl, but later I noticed she had a wedding ring on, so I guess she wasn’t that young) came up and put her arms around the woman. She rubbed her shoulders and told her it was no big deal.

Then the Kroger workers got there, took over and asked her if she was okay. She said yes, but she was just embarrassed. She didn’t see the crates sticking out.

I started to move away and then saw what hit me. It was the complete broken top of one of the pop bottles and I shuddered. I was thankful that the cap end hit me, not the jagged broken glass at the other end!

I ran into that girl again a few aisles over, so I told her it was a nice thing she did. She said both her mother and grandmother are on oxygen tanks and she just felt bad for the lady. She pointed out that I had been attentive to the poor woman as well. I told her that, as a crip myself, I have fallen or knocked things over many times, so I knew how embarrassed she was feeling.

I checked out and got back on the road, heading east this time.

I stopped in at Duke’s hardware, still on Ford Road. If you’ve ever been in an old time hardware store, you would love Duke’s. If you’ve only been to Home Depot or Lowe’s you would hate it.

You might remember me mentioning it 10 or 12 years ago as the only place I could find replacement parts for the old downstairs faucets. They’ve been there forever and carry a mix of old and new replacement parts.

Anyway, I asked where deck screws would be and the girl at the counter (a real counter, not a checkout) said, “Over there somewhere, I think.” I was looking for a small box of them (like Home Depot, lol), but I found them only in open containers. You grabbed what you needed and put them in small paper sacks.

Back at the counter, she asked me what the price was (no bar codes here!) I said, “$5.99 a pound.” She weighed them on a hanging scale and I paid three bucks for my sack, so I must have gotten about a half a pound.

By then I really was hungry, so my next stop was the “Something” Neighborhood Grill on Ford Road (Shame on me, I didn’t notice the name!). I thought about second breakfast, but decided to order a patty melt “deluxe” (fries and coleslaw – either creamy or vinegar, your choice). It was very good!

I was close to Telegraph now, so I went there and stopped in at Harry’s Surplus. After last week’s tearful ride, I know I need to order motorcycle glasses. But, I don’t want to be side-lined waiting for them. So, I thought I’d get some army surplus goggles, like I used back in the day.

Unfortunately, they no longer have the kind I had. In fact, when I described them, the lady at the counter said, “Those sound like World War II surplus goggles” (and they probably were).

So, I tried several pair on over my glasses (please note, my old glasses were much wider than my current, broken ones) and found only one would fit. They look way too modern for my taste (picture the troops in Afghanistan) but if they work, what the hell.

I got home a little after 1:00 p.m., dead tired. I pulled the cooler out and put away the perishables in the fridge. Then I changed clothes, grabbed a glass of cranberry juice and lay on the bed for a while, hoping to take a nice nap..

I didn’t feel sleepy though, so after a bit, I gave up on the nap idea. I finished putting away the groceries. Then I grabbed my empty milk jug and then watered all the container gardens and the mail box garden. I didn’t plant anything in the mailbox garden this year as I noticed the Shasta daisies were growing back. Well, now they are starting to bloom. So, I added mulch to the garden and watered it again. Then I took pictures of the daisies and the spirea bush, now in full bloom. After the spirea blooms die, I will trim it (there are too many different levels). By the time I finished the front and back container gardens, I was sweating like a pig. I decided it was too hot to work in the garage until later tonight.

Daisies in the English garden

The long and short of the spirea blooms

Back inside, I made the salad for tonight’s dinner. She said she had used rotini, but I thought it sounded perfect for bow-tie pasta. But, when I checked my pantry shelves, I found I had no bow-tie pasta, so I used tri-color rotini. I cooked it until it was al dente, then I drained it. I rinsed the pasta until it was cool. I also thawed half a bag of peas.

Then I made the dressing, She said it was just mayonnassie and Ranch dressing, but more mayo than Ranch. So, I tried 1/2 cup of mayo and 1/4 cup of Ranch. I tasted it. Ranch level seemed okay, but it was too sweet So, I added a splash of red wine vinegar, some fine sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Sidebar: I am not that fond of Ranch dressing and, upon reflection, I think Blue Cheese dressing would have been a far better choice.

I covered the bowl with cling wrap and put it in fridge to chill. Next I ran the dishwasher. It was not totally full, but I was running out of silverware.

It was almost 6:00 p.m., but I went out in the garage for a bit and took some measurements. It was 87 degrees F. and still too hot and humid, though. It had clouded up during my stay inside and now looked like rain. But, a breeze had sprung up from the west, so I set up my sanding station on the grass south of the garage (so the wind would hit me and carry some of the sawdust away) and commenced carving and sanding again.

I quit at 7:30 p.m. I blew the sawdust off me and buttoned up the garage for the night. Inside, I stripped and jumped into the downstairs shower. I put on clean shorts and a tee shirt and took the rest of the night off.

I ate some ham and pea salad about 8:30 p.m. Now here’s what’s weird: You remember me ragging on the taste of Ranch when I taste-tested the dressing by itself? Well, after being mixed with the pasta, ham and peas and then siting in the fridge for a few hours, it was gone! You didn’t taste “Ranch,” you tasted herbs and, oddly enough, onions. I noticed the onions right off the bat because when I was making the salad I thought, “Shouldn’t there be green onions or at least chives in here?”

Anyway, it was pretty good! And I even had a second bowl to double check!

I watched an old spaghetti western I had taped called "Death Rides a Horse" (it probably sounds more dramatic in Italian). It wasn’t a Clint Eastwood one, but it did have Lee Van Cleef in it. It was lame, but funny. Then I went to bed.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


Finally Friday

It was warmer on Friday, but still with low humidity. Nice morning! I went to Ten Yen for lunch and got the usual. My fortune cookie read, “Courage conquers all things; it even gives strength to the body.” Not that inspiring, but at least it didn't call me an old crab!

The afternoon walk was a little more uncomfortable. It really was heating up!

Back home after 5:00 p.m., I worked on the computer, planning the weekend, while listening to the news. I took a break at 6:30 p.m. to go outside. I checked out the vegetable garden and saw things were really progressing nicely, so I took some pictures for you. You should click on the first one to get the full effect.

Cucumber Blossoms

Green Beans

Japanese Eggplant Flowers

First Italian Tomatoes


and more Peas

Green Peppers

Another Tomato Plant

I chatted a while with my neighbor Rick, who was replacing his pool liner. It ripped over the winter. I gathered it’s a pain, but as he said, he got 10 years out of it, so he can’t complain.

Back inside, I put a two pound bag of baby redskin potatoes on to boil. I need a few for dinner tonight and have plans for the rest over the weekend.

I processed the photos while I waited. When the littlest ones were fork tender, I drained then and spread them on a half sheet pan to sort. Meanwhile, I warmed up the last two onion sausage.

I ate the onion sausage with deli mustard and all of the smallest (the about the size of a large grape) potatoes. I buttered and salted the potatoes and ate them whole. Excellent dinner.

My friend B___ called and we talked for a while. Then I switched on the 1934 movie, Treasure Island, starring Wallace Beery, Jackie Cooper and Lionel Barrymore. I watched one more taped show after it ended and then went to bed.