Monthly Archives: October 2012

Never Cook When Panicked and Other Life Lessons My Mother Never Taught Me

When Storm Sandy hit the East Coast (yesterday) as a born-and-raised Southern Californian with little or no experience of big storms, I panicked. Between the PTSD and lack of experience, I was sure the log home we live in would collapse; the trees would all fall on our house, etc. My answer was,  find something to do!

This works better when you play computer games to put off the panic because your spouse is late than it does when you spend two days getting ready for “stormaggeddon.” I came up with what I thought was the perfect answer, I cooked. Creative, kept me busy, productive, and distracted me from watching the approaching storm.

We needed bread. I’ve been making a batter bread because I’ve been getting up early to bake and write. [You do NOT want to see what I do with loose flour at 4 a.m.., and neither do I. Worse, I’d have to clean it up – kneading bread is out. ] The batter bread falls easily. I made two loaves, and made a banana bread too. Opened the oven to add the banana bread, both loaves fell. One looks like a sink hole, the other is sway-backed.

The banana bread worked fine, but the two types of baking powder in it combined to give it a rather nasty chemical after taste. (I didn’t have enough of one can, so I augmented with another, happened to be another brand.)

Ug. Okay. Forget baking.

I found beautiful, small and CHEAP asparagus last week (around $1.16 a pound!). Of course I bought 4 bunches. I had ham, so I made my usual “spring” risotto. Ham & asparagus, rice, some onion, broth topped with Parmesan. What could go wrong? Well, it isn’t very creamy, although it is good, and it’s a bit salty. It’s okay, but certainly NOT my best effort.

By this time I was downright depressed. The risotto is usually something we gobble up. We both ate a single serving and quit, definitely NOT my best.

In desperation I looked around for something even I couldn’t screw up. There were two Sara Lee blueberry pies in the freezer. Perfect!

Read the instructions, dutifully set the oven temp, in it went. About 3/4ths of the way through, as it was starting to brown I realized I hadn’t put the slits in the top crust. Pleased that I’d remembered, I cut them.

When I pulled the pie out of the oven, the filling hadn’t bubbled through my slits, the filling had pushed the top crust off the pie and it had “puked” onto the cookie sheet. Ug. Okay. The pie was done, the filling on the sheet wasn’t burnt and got eaten.

My life lesson from Stormaggeddon Sandy: DON’T COOK WHEN DISTRACTED!

But see? There you go. Now you know this and you don’t have a fridge full of not so great food as well.

Just once I’d like to learn something worthwhile without it being expensive, painful or embarrassing – and usually two of the three. This falls into the expensive & embarrassing categories. It could’ve been worse, I could have been feeding others!

Lesson #2: Blueberry pie for breakfast isn’t bad!

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Anyone else?

find the lack of proper English in the news/blogs appalling? It drives me crazy!!!

Yesterday I read a news report from the AP that was so full of typos and errors I noted the writer’s name, to make sure I never read their pieces again.

Do people seriously think this doesn’t matter? I don’t know about you, but I do make judgments about who I read, how much, or whether I’ll read something  — based on how well it’s written.

I’m hardly a wonderful writer, but I do proofread my pieces. I also go back & fix any errors I find.

What caused this rant? I just found another news item with “passed” and “past” mixed up. Sigh.

J

Frantic Friday

Today: finish everything I didn’t get done yesterday, AND:

  • Move the potting soil/trunk/gravel so that they’re used or in their winter storage.
  • Take stuff to the antique store
  • Take unsold items to the thrift shop
  • Talk to the bank (sort of optional)
  • Talk to an insurance person (see item above)
  • Bake bread
  • The usual: file, write, catalog

There’s a reason I used to sell fantasy books and my novel is a fantasy and I read the stuff, right? I am DREAMING! (If I think I’ll get all this done in one day.)

Today?

I have only the barest of agenda’s. Nowhere I have to be at a certain time, which is always nice.

I have been pecking away at the living room. Unpacked a box of books, started another. These have been piled atop the up side down coffee table in the corner (so was the barrister’s case, but it’s gone now).  The coffee table has to be moved away from the corner for the plant supplies to go there. In the planned final living room design, the coffee table will go in front of the couch (currently upstairs in our bedroom), the 2 club chairs on each side, a side table between. The club chairs, coffee table,  couch table and side tables are in the living room now, and usable (if empty). The rest of it isn’t. In order to get this done, I have to take the boxes o’ stuff off the coffee table, move it. Put the plants & supplies in the corner as much as possible, empty the new graphics table (and the floor beneath it), move it against the plants, etc.

Then, empty the couch, haul it down stairs into the hole made by the graphics table being moved. Put everything in place. And, yeah, just in case you noticed? This isn’t talking about the other 1/2 of the room, which contains (Ready?) a loom, a full size document file, 2 industrial storage bins, and about 30 boxes of books.

No problem, right? I’ll get this done today, easy.

Hah!

No, today’s realistic agenda is: empty the boxes on top of the coffee table. See if it can be moved out of the corner? If so, move it, then move the plants and start cleaning up the graphics table/under it. If I’m lucky/diligent? I’ll get that done. It really needs to happen in one day, if possible, as the plants need to be near sunlight, not shoved into a corner!

I have stuff to haul to one of the church consignment shops this afternoon and things to take to the antique store too. I will put the stuff going away in the car, which will help clear out the living room, but not enough to make a large dent.

We’ll see! (Lined through items are complete.)

So far . . .

It’s 10:30 a.m. (approximately) and I’ve made broccoli broth (water from blanching the broccoli florets + chopped stems, cook, buzz, strain out any big pieces. There’s bread in the oven — I made it sprouted wheat bread this time, as I have a quart mason jar full of sprouting wheat on the window sill. The apple butter is finishing up, I unplug the crock pot when I can’t pay attention to it. I’ve had too many things burn because I just went away and left it cooking.

I’ve raked some of the leaves from one area I didn’t mow yesterday and thrown out a book. Not too bad for only being up 3 hours or so! I wonder what else I’ll get done today?

It’s dump day, and I really need to go as we didn’t make it last weekend. That’s an imperative, our bin is only so big! A few weeks back we stopped using plastic bags. Yes, they’re sanitary and easy and cheap. No they’re not “frugal” or eco-friendly. Our household trashcans are plastic, tall skinny things, fine. But they won’t fit in the car standing up & they have no lids. So, we used bags for a long while. DH said, “How about the bins we use for hauling kindling and wood?” As usual we had more than we needed for that, and one of those is working just fine. It fits in the car, has a tight-fitting lid and holds the usual household trash with a some room to spare. Our dump provides a hose to rinse trash cans so I don’t even have to bring it home dirty! So no more trash bags for day-to-day trash for us — SCORE! (But it does mean that the trash has to be taken to the dump faithfully, the bin isn’t huge!)

Other tasks, aside from yesterday’s outstanding list and the usual include: re-organizing the freezer so you can add something without an avalanche, take down the shade tent outside, finish raking/mowing, cut down the canary pine (been on my list for months!), tidy up the attic, and I’m sure I could easily find another 100 things!

What are you up to today?

The agenda

Had  to be out early. Got to the market just after it opened. I found broccoli this morning for .99 a pound! (Bought 5 lbs.)

The juicer attachment for the food processor isn’t where I thought it was? Without it, I can’t make cider. Found it! 11:22 a.m.

Today’s agenda includes the usual: processing books, cleaning, filing, and laundry. But also:

  • Mow the lawn (if it stays dry) 1st run thru 1:11 (needs 2 or 3 in the fall!)
  • Make cider from the end of the apples (if I find the juicer attachment Done! 3:45pm Three large bowls of cut up fruit = 2.5 bottles of juice + pulp.
  • Process the broccoli I bought this morning. I’ll make at least one broccoli/cheese casserole for this week and I may just mix up a batch of the grated cheese and broken bits of broccoli for another casserole and freeze that. 8:51 pm.
  • Return 2 things to the hardware store
  • Use the caulking stuff DH bought around the front window
  • Hang the light
  • Purge the vase collection. Thought I’d done this? No. A collection of vases wound up with the food processor attachments on top of the kitchen cabinets. The collection needs to be weeded down into the saves and outs. I’ve already eliminated 3 vases in the past month or so. I was PROUD of myself — I’d set a SPACE BUDGET for the vases — and stuck to it!    Sigh. [Is this EVER going to end??? I’m so heartily TIRED of add/change/delete and manage stuff!]

Maybe I’ll freeze the pulp? I used to make an apple cake with it, but the kitchen looks like it went through a war and food fight, all at once. In other words, it is a DISASTER AREA! [I did freeze it.] 7:54p

Today I have been cooking

I set up batter bread last night, so we have a loaf of freshly baked bread.

I roasted peppers while I was waiting for the bread to rise & after the bread baked (the oven was already hot).

I finished the apples I had in the dehydrator and started another pot of apple butter.

Tonight we’ll have roasted pepper soup, salad, and HM bread for dinner. In the meantime, the last of the apples are slated to be turned into cider. I am glad. Frankly, I’m getting just a bit tired of apples!

My next food project is broccoli. I tried to buy some yesterday when I did most of our weekly shopping, but there just wasn’t any? [Well, I found one scraggly package of organic and about 2 smashed packages of conventionally grown. Even frozen there wasn’t much!]  I guess everyone and their uncle had the same idea I did, that brocc0li/cheese casserole would be lovely this week.

Ah well.  .  . I have ground beef/pork mixed for albondigas soup, which I’ve been craving! I’ve never made it before, and I don’t think any of the rices I have qualify as “short grain,” which is what’s specified in at least two recipes.

I think I’ll just use some of my broken jasmine rice, it’s the oldest rice we’ve got, and so should be used first anyway. The grains aren’t full size, so if the reason for the “short grain” rice is that bigger pieces won’t cook through, that should take care of it!

Now that I’ve written about this, I think I’ll make the albondigas instead of the pepper soup. I like both, but I really, really have been wanting albondigas, for a couple of weeks now. Hmmmmm.

P.S. After I wrote this, I went looking (again) for an albondigas soup recipe, like what I remember growing up in Southern California. Nope. Some are closer in some ways than others, but none of them seems exactly “right.” So, as usual, I’m faking it.

I’ve found recipes using either beef broth or chicken stock. Since what I remember is either a very light beef broth or a stock made from the meat drippings (beef & pork, I swear it has to be or maybe just pork?) and I have no beef broth, the broth will be made with chicken stock and pan drippings. Some recipes call for canned tomatoes, my stomach & memory say no. There’s tomato powder in the meat mix, but no tomatoes in the stock.  I’m doing onions, celery, broth, drippings the meat/rice balls, and herbs, cilantro and maybe cumin? We’ll see!

I have a real love/hate for this kind of cooking!

I have a definite idea what is “right,” and no real idea how to make what I want. All of life is editing sometimes! You add this and take away that: stuff, knowledge, people, writing, work, and cooking. I’m winging it. I’m sure it will be edible, but it likely won’t be what I want. It will be closer than no albondigas soup at all however!