Life has been very busy recently, leaving me in the position where I have too many things to do and not enough time to get them all done to my satisfaction. The only solution is that some things just don’t get done. As I said last week, the blog is going to be sporadic for a short period as things readjust. Another thing that “suffers” is house work. There’s still dust on surfaces where there shouldn’t be dust, but I have to keep walking to the next task. And I have to make sure that I get enough sleep to be able to do the things that need to get done.
Unfortunately, cooking is the one thing that absolutely cannot be ignored. It’s a conundrum that every person faces: what to make for dinner? We buy things about every two weeks, and freeze them. So the first thing that I face each day is what I’m going to make, then taking it out of the freezer. I know what I’m in the mood for, but I also have to guess what my family is in the mood for. We all like specific things; we crave things at different times.
Last week, I got grumpy looking at all the fresh vegetables that were ripening in the fridge. I didn’t have time to use them all at once, and they weren’t fresh enough to toss in a salad. Plus, they were all of the type that were better cooked rather than raw. It’s a very warm time here in the desert, but I decided to make soup. I mean, what else are you going to do with veggies?
I took out my new 6 quart dutch oven and filled it full of warm water, then took out frozen chicken thighs and put them in the warm water to thaw out. After a couple of hours, I drained everything and chopped the chicken up in large chunks. I put two tablespoons of olive oil to heat in the dutch oven and sautéed onion and garlic until the onion turned clear. I didn’t want brown onions for this particular soup. I browned the chicken parts then poured a whole carton of chicken broth over everything. Then I added four cups of water, some fresh rosemary, some pepper and brought it to a simmer. I let it simmer four several hours then added fresh leeks cut into strips, fresh green beans cut into bite size chunks, sugar peas, whole baby spinach leaves, celery heart, shredded curly leaf cabbage, and chopped fresh tomatoes. I simmered for about another hour and a half, adjusted the salt and pepper and served it hot with fresh biscuits. The reason I didn’t want the onions to brown was because apart from the tomatoes, every other vegetable was green so I wanted to keep it a light colored soup. My family and I don’t do leftovers very well, so the amount of soup that was made was perfect for us. And it was good! And it used up most of the veggies that were going to turn soon.
Soup is a good panacea for the kitchen. It doesn’t have to cook for a long time to develop full flavors. I’ve seen chefs on TV who make soup in under twenty minutes. I’ve watched chefs in my own kitchen who have made rich, full bodied vegetable soup in a half hour. For me, the hardest part is knowing when to stop adding things. I didn’t add rice or noodles to this soup since I was serving it with fresh bread.
Everything is coming up! Well, almost everything. All my green beans are up. My tomatillos are starting. The radishes are thriving. The carrots have poked their greens up. My seedling tomatoes didn’t do well, so I ended up buying two thriving cherry tomato plants and one roma tomato plant and putting those in. I also planted four pepper plants, two poblano and two Holy Mole, which I’ve never heard of. I also planted sweet peas next to the fence so they could use the chain link to climb. They’ve just poked their heads out of the dirt. The only thing that I’m starting to question are the herbs. I’ve got one bunch coming up, but nothing else. I’ve got one basil and one sage that I picked up at a nursery so I might end up getting all the rest of my herbs there too. So with the plants all doing well, I still need the overalls to complete the role play.
Back about a hundred years ago, there was a commercial for Ace Hardware where a catchy tune was sung “Ace is the place with your helpful hardware man!” Of course, now it’s changed to “helpful hardware people”, but that’s a different story. Here in town, we have a bunch of Ace hardware stores. It seems like there’s one on every corner, but that’s not really accurate, because every corner has a 7-Eleven.
I like hardware stores, especially the “old timey” ones. I love going into stores with crowded shelves and spending a couple of hours rooting through the things that are crammed in the back and covered with two years worth of dust. You never know what kind of treasure you’re going find. It’s like going through a used book store and finding gold.
Anyone who has read this blog with any kind of regularity (both of you) will recall my travails with making donuts. Still haven’t found “the recipe” and I was stymied by the cutting process. Watching Alton Brown on the Food Network, I “learned” about a kit of cutting rings running from 3.5 inches down to 7/8 of an inch. True to AB’s philosophy, these are multi-use and watching the show about donuts, you can use the smallest ring and the third largest ring to cut the “perfect sized” donut. I searched diligently in the old style hardware stores, in bakery stores, in restaurant supply stores, and finally found a set in a kitchen store. I was happy happy happy, but still looking for that elusive donut cutter.
The donut cutter I was looking for cut out the outer ring and inner ring simultaneously. It was one unit and easy to use. I’d never seen one personally, but had seen pictures on the internet and on television. Every bakery section, every kitchen section, every cooking section of every story I ever went into got searched thoroughly. It didn’t matter if I’d been to the store just a few days previously, I looked just in case it showed up out of the blue in a stock change. No donut cutter. I saw several pan to bake donuts, but I wanted the donut cutter so I could fry donuts. The donuts I’m after are the round version of fried crullers. Mostly, I need the flavor that I remember from my childhood.
There’s another small device that I’ve been after for a number of years. Way back in the misty yesteryears of my youth, my mom had a Fry Daddy. It was an electric heating pot you filled with oil to turn into a miniature deep fryer. Once you were finished with it, you let the oil cool, snapped on a protective plastic lid, and put it in the fridge until you needed it again. It helped keep the oil from turning rancid so it could be reused. It was really only practical for families who did a lot of frying. We used it mainly for French fries. Until we stopped using it altogether. It was awkward, hard to store, and took a long time to heat up. But it had one thing that I used over and over for years. The scoop that came with it was amazing. It was slotted so oil drained off quickly. It was long handled to reach to the bottom of the pot without burning your hand, but not so long as to be awkward. It was shaped vaguely like a butterfly so it was easy to flip things into its center. Without realizing they were doing it, they created a very elegant tool for handling cooking food. I kept that thing for years, until I lost it recently. By recently, I mean a few years ago. In the multitude of moves since my divorce, it got misplaced. I’ve seen it once or twice, but have managed to misplace it each time.
I’ve looked in all the same places that I looked for a donut cutter. It just wasn’t to be found. I even figured I’d buy the deep fryer again, but when I looked, they weren’t including that same design of scoop. I bought other skimmers that do a good job, but they weren’t the same and in the back of my mind I regretted having lost it.
Have you ever seen a pair of wooden toast tongs? These are small, wooden devices that you use to grasp things gently. They are mainly used to get hot items out of toasters. They are made of wood because it doesn’t conduct electricity and are safer to use in a toaster that’s still plugged in. They also don’t conduct heat so grasping them for a length of time won’t burn your fingers. They also don’t last in the dishwasher much past the fifth or sixth washing. Who knew? They’re also impossible to find in any store.
So, we have Ace hardware on every corner. I think I said that. There’s one that is so large it takes up a half block. It’s huge! It’s got several door fronts to go to different departments. It’s got a hobby section. IT’S GOT HOUSEWARES! Guess what I found at Ace Hardware?
Yup! You see it! That’s a wooden toast tong on the bottom; that’s a donut cutter in the middle; that’s the Fry Daddy Scoop at the top!
Ace really is the place!
BTW – Due to some things occurring in my life right now, posts are going to be a little more sporadic than usual. I’ll continue to post at least twice a week, and I’ll shoot for my normal schedule of M-W-F, but with everything happening, I can’t guarantee the days or the times. Thanks for understanding.
I haven’t posted a story in quite a while so here’s on for you. Look at the menu to the right and find the link to Happy Birthday To Me. It’s about a birthday I spent in Africa one time. Hope you all enjoy it!
Hi! I’m crazy busy today, have been all week. Today will be a very short post, just one to brag. I’ll be posting a short story this weekend, so watch the pages on the right for the new one.
You all remember how I planted my garden a few days ago? Well! I’ve got radishes coming up already!!! I’m psyched. Nothing else is showing yet, but the tomato is looking good, too. So here are a couple of pics.
If you look right down the middle of the photo, you will see tiny dots of green. Those are the radish plants just starting to poke their leafy heads above ground.
And right dead center on the above photo is the green tomato doing its best to grow large and ripen. In the background, upper right, is one of the cherry tomato plants I started from seeds. The ground looks a little sere because I water in the morning about 6 a.m. That ensures that the water goes into the ground rather than evaporating before it can soak in.
So, anyway, now I feel like Farmer Joe. All I need to do is buy a pair of overalls and I’m set.
Take care and have a great weekend!
I haven’t done a restaurant review for a while so I thought I’d correct that by telling you about two restaurants here that we like and go to all the time. One is locally owned and both have some of the best food we’ve had.
The first is called Melt: A Sandwich Joint. They’re only opened for breakfast and lunch, and only Monday thru Saturday. Ordinarily, when a business isn’t open on Sunday, I tend not to patronize them the rest of the week for personal reasons. After I found out why this place wasn’t open on Sunday, I was okay with it. Again, personal reasons. It’s a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, and the times we’ve been there, a/c was non-existent. The high ceilings and fans work hard to keep the place cool, but it does get uncomfortably warm. All that being said, the character of the place and the people also work overtime to make this a unique experience.
The food is tremendous, inexpensive, high quality, and lots for your bucks. They have two types of sandwiches: cold ones, and hot ones. All are made fresh and made to order. I’ve had three Philadelphias and had them different ways each time with no trouble. Partner/Spouse has tried three different sandwiches and all three have exceeded expectations.
See, that’s what’s key in these kinds of places. What are your expectations when you go in, and how well are they met? This place has a lot going for it. It’s inviting, it’s delicious, it’s affordable. It’s amusing in that it named all it’s sandwiches after cities. It serves portions you can actually eat, rather than build a sandwich only a snake with unhinged jaws can get it’s teeth around. It’s a charmer.
The other restaurant is called My Big Fat Greek Restaurant. Yep, it’s a play on that movie title. And what you suppose? It serves Greek food! I love Greek food. Oh, hell, I love most foods. But Greek food is a stand out. I love the Mediterranean influence. Tzitziki sauce is something I could dive into and not come up for air until it was all gone. Gyros (it’s pronounced yeeros, but call it whatever you like) is one of the best sandwiches on the planet, and when you take it apart and make a salad out of it, it gets even better!
They have an appetizer where they take a chunk of Greek cheese and heat it on a sizzling platter. They serve it on that platter but once it’s at your table, they pour ouzo over it and set it on fire with shouts of “Opa!” I always feel a little silly with the shouting, but the cheese tastes amazing! They also have flame cooked pizza, various pastas, etc. If there’s one in your town, I recommend you try it.
Well, enjoy the rest of the day. I’m off to make cookies. Take care!