Post #676 The Turn of the Seasons

October 13, 2019 at 1:11 PM | Posted in Basics, Crock Pot Slow Cooking | Leave a comment

I’ve always thought that between September and November there are two seasons.  The first season is End O’ Summer Beginning O’ Fall, and the second season is Dead Fall.  End O’ Begin O’ is when the warmth is declining but it’s not really super chilly, but it’s chilly enough to wear sweatshirts and sweaters easily.  Colors are changing, and the leaves turn spectacular colors.  Dead Fall is when the chill has definitely set in and we start looking for our winter clothes we put away last year cuz we need ’em.  Conversations turn to oil prices, and new boots, and snow tires.  The hill at the end of the street that was full green and gorgeous just a few weeks ago is now looking like this.

Imagine all those barren trees decked in blazing red and orange and you know what our view was.  Of course, I didn’t get pics of that before the rain took down the colors.  Even the drive to work is pretty spectacular.

Just one of the reasons we worked to get here.

Food takes on a different aspect this time of the year, too.  The drive for fresh fruits and veggies by necessity gives way to those that are preserved and canned and can’t be eaten straight from the ground.  Gourds and roots are the name of the game these days, and the months stretching in front of us are more of the same.

It’s not as dire as it sounds since the grocery stores still have all the fresh veggies we could ever hope for.  But if you want to buy local, it’s rough going.  In summer, when everyone is active and the farmer’s markets are thriving, I tend to think in terms of salads.  When it’s hot, you want to eat something cool and light.  This time of year, my mine shifts and I know it’s going to get cold and snowy, so I think in terms of hot and hearty.  You want things that are rib-sticking and heavy.  You burn more calories when it’s cold out than other times of the year so you want those calories to burn.  In my mind, I got to heavy soups and stews.  But, since work life gets in the way, it’s not always that easy.  This is when the crock pot comes into its own.

So today, even though we’re both home working on our computers and listening to music (and the door is open because it’s an unusually fine fall day and the house needs to get aired out) I did this.  See if you can guess:

If you guessed stew, you’d almost be right!

What I’m making is a pot roast.  My mom did this all the time.  It’s simple; it’s easy; it’s nutritious; it’s delicious.  You can use less expensive cuts of meat and they will come out tasting like they were made for kings.  So I’m going to break this down into its basic component parts and discuss those.

First, the meat.  You can easily see from the picture that this hunk of beef is way more than two people can eat in one meal.  Hell, it’s more than two people can finish off in four meals!  So what I’m going to do is cook the beef separately until it’s done and cut it into three equal-ish pieces.  By the time that’s done, there will be a phenomenal collection of meat juices in the crock pot that I’ll use to finish off the veggies.  The one “mistake” new cooks tend to make when cooking an all-in-one-pot meal is that components cook at different rates.  My mom always had perfectly done meat and veggies that were mush.  So, cook the meat alone until it’s nearly done, then add the veggies.

That’s not to say you don’t cook it with the aromatics.  Aromatics is just a fancy word for herbs and spices or anything else that adds flavor.  Since I know what else I’m going to make with the roast (enchiladas and potato boats) I can add the right aromatics so they enhance the flavor of the meat for everything.  I’m using celery, garlic, onion, and carrot.  Celery has a bright tangy flavor.  Garlic is the flavor of the earth, as far as I’m concerned.  Onion is bitter and sweet and sharp.  Carrot adds sweetness and hearty flavor.  You can add any flavors you like when you cook.  As you try new things, you’ll discover what works for you and what doesn’t.

So, right now, I’m cooking the meat along with roughly chopped garlic, carrot chunks, onion chunks, celery chunks, and a sprinkle of salt.  Salt makes everything taste good.  In a few hours, I’m going to take out the meat and cut it into the portions a I need.  By then, it will be time to put in more onion, the potatoes, and more celery.  The original celery will be too mushy to use, and the original onions will be gone, having given their life and essence to the broth created by the slow cooking method.  BUT, I’m going to add a couple of more flavor enhancers.

Ever heard of Umami?  It’s the part of the taste receptors that tastes savory and meaty flavors.  But the things that trigger it are kind of funny.  When added to meat, they make meats taste meatier and better.  MSG is one, as is tomato paste and red wine.  So there’s a reason why they always say drink red wine with a steak.  Mushrooms also have umami, and cheese, as well as some fish.  Through centuries of trial and error, cooks have found those things that bring out the meaty flavor that science now tells us we ought to use.  So, once I’ve removed the meat and the aromatics, I’m going to add a tablespoon of tomato paste to the broth (another umame ingredient) and I’d love to add whole mushrooms.  But Partner/Spouse hates the texture of mushrooms so they aren’t going in.  However, I am going to add mushrooms to get the umami factor.  A few years ago ATK gave me the idea.  Take dried mushrooms and put them through a spice or coffee grinder until they are powder.  Then add a spoonful of the mushroom powder.  (NOTE:  IF YOU USE A COFFEE GRINDER MAKE SURE IT HAS NEVER BEEN USED TO GRIND COFFEE.  THE COFFEE FLAVOR IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ELIMINATE AND WILL TAINT EVERYTHING ELSE BEING GROUND IN THAT GRINDER.)  So I’ve got some dried mushrooms and powdered them.  I don’t have any red wine or I’d add that too.  The thing to remember when adding these ingredients is they are heavy flavor enhancers so use small amounts of each until you get the flavor you like.  And the mushroom powder will also thicken the sauce quite a bit since it’s actually dried mushroom and will absorb a lot of liquid.

Once I’ve doctored the sauce, I’ll add the potatoes, onions, celery, and probably a little more garlic to freshen the flavor, and put the meat in on top.  I’ll cook that up until the veggies are done and the meat should be falling-apart tender at this point.

I’d love to tell you how long each stage takes, but it’s a crock pot.  Each one has its own personality and will take as long as it takes.  I don’t expect to be eating until around 6:30 or 7pm.  But, even though it sounds like a lot of work, it’s not really.

So, that’s the plan for today.  What are your plans for dinner today, or the near future?  Let us all know.  We’d like to hear from you.

So, in a few weeks, there’s another holiday – Samhain.  In the pagan calendar, this starts the new year, but we also like the modern twist of Halloween.  I’m a big Great Pumpkin fan.

See?  But Partner/Spouse is a bigger fan of the season.

See?

As always,

 

 

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Post #675 I’ve Been to Baku, Have You?

October 6, 2019 at 10:37 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

During my “travel days” when I was lucky enough to see parts of the world most people don’t and experience cultures and foods I never knew existed, I got work for a few weeks in Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan.  It’s located in the former USSR on the western shore of the Caspian sea.  It’s got a long rich history full of wars and take overs and I won’t go into it in any detail, but the different cultural influences are varied and unique.  It’s primary economy is based on oil and petroleum and due to that there is also a fairly large scientific and educational community.

We were there back in the early 2000s, and they were still feeling the impact of the break up of the USSR, but were coming out of it to a rising economy.  The city was large and bustling and crowded.  It was largely a Russian culture, but there was still a strong influence from Persia and the Jewish community.  Formula One racing had taken hold in a strong way and there were shops selling F1 paraphernalia everywhere.

We were working 8-10 hours a day and our weekends were sometimes work-filled so we didn’t get a chance to see a lot of the sites, but we did get to go to a series of restaurants around the area.  Our hotel was located on Fountain Square almost directly across the street from the only McDonald’s in the city (at the time though I’m sure there are likely more by now.  They spring up like rabbits.)  It actually made it easier to get cabs.  Since none of us knew the language nor could puzzle it out, we’d just say “McDonald’s” to the cabbie and we’d get to the hotel.

We were warned never to try to get a cab ourselves.  We either went through the hotel or the embassy guards to get them.  The joke was as soon as a son was born, they were given a driver’s license and a cab topper for their car.  Because there was no central cab authority, the honesty of the cab drivers could be suspect, and kidnappings and extortion were problematic.  It was the same walking the streets.  There was a vibrant and active night life every night of the week, but tourists could sometimes be targeted for theft.  The most popular method was for a crowd to separate tourists and “guide” the one to an alley or a nightclub to be fleeced.  It never happened to us, but we were careful to stay to well lit areas.

My hotel windows didn’t look out over the square but to the other side which I found more fascinating.  I was looking at the real town where the locals lived.  It wasn’t as dressy as the square, but it wasn’t dirty or poor looking.  One thing I noticed each morning is the locals came out about the same time (I recall it was around 6:30am) and used bundles of small, bushy sticks to clean and sweep the sidewalks and the streets in front of their buildings.  In just a few minutes, all litter and dirt was swept to the curb and picked up.  I imagined that once that was done, they went in and started breakfast and had coffee.

Near the seaside is the original city with its ancient walls and battlements.

We climbed to the top of the tower and looked at the sights.  Then we went to the markets, and on of my colleagues bought some antique rugs which he shipped home.  I’m not a rug person, but many of my colleagues were so he was happy to find some deals.  I wasn’t in the market for anything in particular and bought a set of nesting dolls for a friend, and a pashmina for my sister, which turned out to be so successful I wished I bought her two more.

The area near the hotel was definitely the touristy area and designed to be enjoyed throughout the day, but at night is came alive.

I walked for miles just staring and gawking.  The European influence was strong and the displays in the shop windows was fascinating.

My usual routine was to get home and change.  Sometimes, I’d eat at the hotel, but other times I’d wait till I walked through the area for a while.  I walked every night for a couple of hours.  I ate street food that everyone else was eating.  Or I’d stop at a restaurant and sit at a communal table and enjoy a thick stew with potatoes, or turnips, or beets, and beef or pork.  I even ate at McDonald’s a few times.  I’ve found that fast foods outside of the US seem to have a different flavor, more a local flair, and taste a little better.

One weekend evening, all three of us went to an upscale restaurant with a couple of people from the embassy.  It was a Russian restaurant, had a dark interior, and a large Russian woman in a tight purple sparkly dress wandering through the dining area crooning vampish songs in Russian (I think, I’m not a linguist.)  I noticed that she would stop occasionally to interact coquettishly with a patron.  At one point, while I was eating (pork chops with pickled cabbage and something else) she seemed to be right behind me since her voice was loud.  The others at the table were watching her, but I was more interested in my plate.  A few moments later, the guy next to me said, “You did an excellent job ignoring her.”

“Ignoring who?” I asked.

“The singer,” he replied, surprised.  “She was trying to get you to flirt with her.”

I glanced behind me but she was long gone.  “Oh, I didn’t realize she was there.”

Another time, we went to an restaurant that featured Mediterranean foods.  This was food I was familiar with and enjoyed a lot.  We spent a lot of time there relaxing and laughing.  We found out a couple of days later that my colleague’s credit card was double billed.  It took several weeks and the assistance of one of the local employees to get it corrected.

One of the poignant highlights of the trip was a small girl who hung out outside our hotel.  She was asking for money and for some reason, she took a shine to my colleague.  The two of them would banter words back and forth.  She spoke pretty good English.  She would be there every time we walked out, almost as if she knew his schedule ahead of time.  He’d give her the equivalent of $10 every time he saw her, but only after they teased each other for a few minutes.  She showed us where the locals went to have a good time, or good eats, or just enjoy the day.  On our last day there, we all pitched in and gave her about $50.

The hotel staff was very interested in making sure our stay was pleasant, but none more than the older woman who was head of the maid service.  She turned down our beds personally every night to make sure we were comfy and didn’t need anything.  She also put the chocolates on our pillows, and when she found out how much I enjoyed it, she started giving me three every night.

About a year after we were there, we found out that the local staff we had been working with had been replaced due to influence peddling.  Kind of sad.

As always,

Post #674 Random Thoughts

October 2, 2019 at 8:22 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I’ve done a mid-week post so I wanted to be sure to get one done today.  Might be shorter than normal, but what the heck.  So driving to and from work every day is quite an experience these days.  The fall colors are exploding all over the place.  I won’t go on about the apples again, but I was talking to someone at work the other day and made the comment, “The best bite of an apple is always the first one.  You don’t know what to expect and it the flavor explodes in your mouth.  All the other bites pale in comparison because by then you’re used to it.”  She laughed and said I was right.  Then walked away laughing.

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I’ve got a writer friend in Australia.  We’ve never met in person, but we’ve interacted so much on line, and helped each other with our writing projects that we’re as close as if we grew up next door.  A few years ago, she was lucky enough to swing a trip to a writer’s conference in Boston.  I really wanted to get up there to see her, but I was in Arizona at the time.  We chatted online while she was here, and she made the observation about how disappointed she was that pumpkin in America didn’t taste like pumpkin she was used to.  It tasted more like cinnamon.  I laughed and explained that here anything that said pumpkin really meant pumpkin spice, and that pumpkin spice was a sweet spice blend that went into pies.  She was not impressed.  For the record, neither am I.  I prefer tacos.

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The last post I talked about staples, those items you keep on hand to make things with.  Before leaving for work, I took out a sirloin steak large enough to feed the two of us.  Typically, when that happens, we grill it on the stove with our cast iron grill pan, then have it with salad.  Or roasted potatoes.  But today, I grilled it and we had it with flour tortillas, pico de gallo, and cheese.  Kind of a mock fajita, but we enjoyed the heck out of them.  And it was all done with the things we nearly always have on hand.  Part of it was even leftover from last night’s Taco Tuesday!

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I was talking to a woman at work today and she was saying she wanted to learn more about meringues.  She’s been watching a lot of The Great British Bake Off and has been fascinated with the way they’re made and the variations.  The only one she hasn’t tried yet is the Italian meringue.  I told her it was my favorite.  I once made America’s Test Kitchen’s Mile High Lemon Pie with the Italian meringue.  She asked if the heated sugar cooked the egg whites and if that made it taste funny.  I told her it tasted like whipped marshmallows.  She seemed to like that.

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I’m a peppermint loving guy.  I love the smell; I love the taste; I love the impact.  I have a bowl of peppermint Lifesavers in my office and it keeps the smell of peppermint going all the time.  Peppermint is an astringent so it cleans really well, too.  I have peppermint shampoo, body wash, deodorant, toothpaste, and shaving lotion.  Several years ago, I learned a recipe to make my own peppermint candy.  Soften 8oz of cream cheese and whip it in a large bowl.  Add a tsp of peppermint extract and blend thoroughly.  Add two cups of powdered sugar, then keep adding powdered sugar in half-cup increments to make a very stiff dough.  Total should be about 4-5 cups.  If you like a stronger peppermint flavor up the amount to 2 tsp, but don’t go more than that because the flavor gets stronger over time.  Roll the dough out and cut into small shapes.  Dip them or drizzle them with chocolate and leave to air dry until completely dry.  You can also color them.  I made these for Christmas one year, and my sister in law insisted the blue ones tasted the best.  Go figure.

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I had a blueberry scone for breakfast today.  We bought them at the grocery store, so it wasn’t terribly fresh, but it tasted like a scone is supposed to.  I wish I could get mine to rise the same way.  But the star was the blueberries.  They were locally sourced, perfectly ripe, and there were a TON in this scone!  Every single bite was blueberry heaven.  Blueberries are one of my favorite, partly because they were the first berry I learned to identify as a kid.  I used to keep frozen blueberries around to throw a handful into anything going on.  My favorite was blueberries in salad.  Tastes so good.

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Well that’s what I got for tonight.  Random, rambling thoughts.  Any of you out there got any random thoughts to share?  Let us all know!

As always,

Post #673 Staplers in the Kitchen

September 29, 2019 at 12:12 PM | Posted in Basics | Leave a comment

Today, we’re going back to basics and I’m going to talk about kitchen staples.

But first!  Last weekend, we were in a secondhand shop looking around for those hidden treasures.  We had a couple of things in mind that we wanted to add snap to the house décor.  We didn’t find them, but I did find Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook which was originally titled The Boston Cooking School Cook Book.  This is one of those iconic “must haves” the rival in popularity all the standards of our age.  I even have the 1896 edition on my Kindle.  But as busy as we both get, although I have the cookbook, today was the first time I’ve opened it up since we got it.  I found this on the first blank inside page.

It’s an inscription from Christmas in 1981.  It reads:

“Dear Kilty, I know you don’t really like to cook, but maybe this good “new” book will inspire you.  Merry Christmas to all of you – the whole family will benefit from this book.  Love, Laura.”

I found this endearing for so many reason.  First, I can’t imagine anyone not liking to cook.  You have to cook if you want to eat.  Even tossing a Lean Cuisine into the microwave and following the instructions is cooking, because that’s what cooking is all about.  But the gentle nudging of Laura to Kilty says so much about how roles were viewed even at that late date.  The woman was supposed to cook and provide meals for the family who were also going to benefit from the book, nudge nudge.  And the word “new” in quotes tells me that Laura knew exactly how old this cookbook is and knew its value.

So much fun.  I haven’t seen any hand written notes inside it, so I’m guessing it didn’t have the desired impact.  Poor family.

So, today’s basic topic is staples.  I’m not talking office supplies here.  Staples just refers to those items that you keep in your kitchen at all times.  Staples are different for each household.  If you’re a baker, like I am, the staples tend to focus more on flour, sugar, eggs, vanilla, etc.  If you’re a griller, your staples are going to focus more on things like meats, condiments, charcoal and the like.

I read a great description about staples one time from Shirley Jackson, the author of the short story “The Lottery” and the novel “The Haunting of Hill House” among others.  She wrote “The lowest common denominators in our house were bread and peanut butter.”  She also writes of buying culinary magazines for inspiration and found a recipe which looked enticing.  “However, it inevitably had ingredients unappealing to my little family.  After removing all the items we wouldn’t eat, I was left with a meatloaf studded with cashew nuts, undeniably a novelty.  When I served it that night, I watched as everyone picked out the nuts and my son complained why did we always have to have hamburger?”

Every cookbook I’ve ever read has one section on the important things every cook needs in the kitchen and the lists are extensive.  I prefer Alton Brown’s take on it:  If it has a single use, and you don’t use it once a week, get rid of it.  We once got into the extensive list and filling it out.  It was expensive, and we had a space issue for the things that were “required”.

I’ve always though of staples as the magic ingredients.  With the staples in the cupboards, you can always make dinner.  Here’s the things we keep in stock all the time:

  • eggs
  • butter (two types, one for me-one for him)
  • bacon
  • bread (various types)
  • pasta
  • rice
  • lemon juice
  • lime juice
  • tea
  • salad kits
  • seasonal vegetables and fruit
  • potatoes
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tortillas
  • cheese (various types)
  • beef, chicken, pork (whatever is on sale)
  • peanut butter
  • grape jam
  • raspberry jam
  • local honey
  • flour
  • yeast
  • sugar (caster, brown, powdered)
  • chocolate chips
  • cocoa
  • vanilla
  • salt
  • canned tomatoes
  • tomato sauce
  • tomato paste
  • pico de gallo
  • canned chiles and peppers
  • jarred salsa
  • stock (chicken, beef, and vegetable)
  • great norther white beans
  • lentils
  • spices and spice blends

And probably two dozen other things I’ve forgotten.  But you can see from this list that we can put together dozens of meals of various types.  If we’re thinking of something light but filling, it could be lemon pasta and chicken.  If it’s a cold day, it might be a hearty beef stew.  If the day is nice, if we want to barbecue, we got all the stuff for it.  If the day isn’t nice, but we still want to grill, we can do that because we have the cast iron grill pan.  And with fresh vegetables, a salad is usually ten minutes away to go with the grilled protein.

That’s what staples are all about.  It’s keeping the “lowest common denominators” in stock all the time.  For my mom, it was potatoes, meat, and canned veggies.  Plus onions.  For my sister, it’s tortillas, and whatever taco fillings they want.  For some people, it’s frozen dinners.  For some people, it’s a drawer full of menus from restaurants that deliver.  It doesn’t matter what the staples are.  What matters is that they are the things you use all the time.  But here’s another part of the magic of staples.  If it’s something you like and use, you’re going to keep them in stock and over time, they will become a part of your pantry.  And if something else wants to be included, it will be.

So the easiest way to figure out what your staples are is to look at your weekly menu and what it takes to make those things.  Write ’em down and take that list with you when you shop.  Keep them in the same place in your cupboard or pantry.  Over time you’ll be able to see at a glance what you have and what you need.  If you notice something is gathering dust because you haven’t used it in a while, donate it (if it’s not beyond it’s sell-by date) or toss it.  Or -gasp!- use it.

I’m going to close with a recipe for a Mexican soup I saw on television yesterday.  It sounded wonderful and I can’t wait to try it.

  • two onion chopped, hold back half a cup
  • four celery ribs chopped, hold back half a cup
  • two large carrots chopped, hold back half a cup
  • two medium or one large leek cleaned and chopped, hold back half a cup
  • 6 very ripe tomatoes, roasted in the oven and chopped
  • two chipotle chilies in adobo sauce, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pound of either: cleaned shrimp, lean chicken breast chopped, lean pork loin chopped
  • cilantro and lime juice for garnish

In a large heavy pot, heat two tablespoons vegetable oil until shimmering but not smoking.  Add onions, celery, carrots, and leeks.  Stir to coat, reduce heat to medium low, and allow to cook until onion is transparent, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes and juice along with any charred bits, and stir until combined.  Add the chilies and sauce and stir again.  Cook until bubbling, then add the chicken stock.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat to simmer and allow to cook for fifteen minutes.  Remove from heat and cool for 30 minutes.  Puree the soup in a blender or with a handheld stick blender to a smooth consistency.  Sieve the soup into the pot getting as much of the liquid as possible using a rubber spatula to press the mixture into the sieve.  Alternatively, if you like a chunkier soup, do not sieve.  Bring the soup back to a good simmer.  Add the shrimp/chicken/pork and cook until protein is cooked through.  Serve in bowls with chopped cilantro and lime juice on top.  (You can use precooked, shredded beef if you like.)

So, what are your staples in the kitchen?  Dish and let us all know!  Feel free to share this far and wide.

As always,

 

Post #672 That Second Meal

September 22, 2019 at 11:12 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s often been said that to stay fit and healthy you should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.  It means that most of the calories you take in for the day should come early so you have time to work them off.  Don’t glut yourself at the end of the day.  I’ve always found that if I eat small, frequent meals during the day, I very seldom ever wake up hungry.  Those few times I do wake up hungry, I generally feel behind the calorie curve and work to “catch up” all day.  I’ve written about breakfast a few times on the blog.  Lord knows, I’m constantly writing about the evening meal.  I don’t think I’ve ever written specifically about lunch, and the meals that are associated with it.

There are many associations I have with the meal time of Lunch.  Mostly, it’s sandwiches and chips.  It goes back to childhood and what my mom would feed us at noon, or pack in our lunch bags.  It was usually PBJ, but there was also baloney and mustard and sometimes cheese.  During the colder months, a bowl of soup would accompany the sandwich.  We bought school lunches quite a bit, too, and I always got some form of a sandwich along with chips and a drink.  So, even now, in my sixth decade, I’m a sandwich kind of guy.

Once I started working and career building, lunch was that intrusion in the middle of the day.  The places I worked mostly didn’t have lunch facilities so I was forced to go out to get something.  Fast food became the de facto lunch and burgers and fries the substitute for sandwich and chips.  Then I started bringing leftovers from dinner the previous night, and changed my thinking to include salads.

Now, I work in a hospital.  Don’t worry; I’m in admin not patient care, and the job I do, while important, does not impact lives.  And the hospital has a cafeteria where we can buy breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  They always have pre-made things available, as well as a salad bar, and hot foods, snacks, bars, coffees, etc.  The worst part is we can pay for things either with cash, card, or our employee badge.  If we use our badge, it’s automatically deducted from our paycheck.  Since we don’t see it, it can build up with alarming speed.  When I first started working there, I tried the hot meals a couple of times, then tried the sandwich bar where they will make subs in the same manner as a sub shop.  Now, I just bring my lunch.  It’s easier, cheaper, and I don’t have to think about it.

So guess what I bring a lot of?  If you guessed sandwiches, you’d be right.

Except I often bring leftovers from dinner.  And I bring salads.  And I make things specifically to bring for lunch.

For instance, today I am making a package soup that’s one of my favorites.  It’s from Bear Creek and this particular one is tough to find.  When I see it, I usually grab a few of them.

It’s Creamy Wild Rice, but it uses no cream that I’ve found.  It makes a half gallon of the most flavorful soup ever in only a half hour.  I like it just as it is, but I also doctor it up.  Today, I’m adding some chopped up fresh chicken breast to cook in the soup.  In the past, I’ve added sliced fresh mushrooms (the cafeteria also makes a wild rice and mushroom soup, but I haven’t tried it yet.)  Once it’s cooled, I’ll divide it into containers and freeze them.  This company also makes pasta packages, but I haven’t tried them yet.  There other soups are good, too, but I don’t recommend the single-serving instant packages.  They don’t have the same long-cooked flavor.

Sometimes, when we’re having BLT Grandes for dinner, we’ll make plenty of extra bacon so we can take it to work for lunch.  I’ve discovered that if I want another BLT for lunch I should NOT put the tomatoes in it until I’m ready to eat.  The bread will turn to slime if left with the tomatoes for too long.  Even toasting won’t help.  And since the tomato harvest was so good in this area, the ripe tomatoes were plentiful, and the soggy bread was too.

The salad packages in the grocery store are excellent for side dinner salads, but they are also excellent for lunch salads.  We make them up just before leaving for work, and they’re perfect at lunch time.  We usually add extra veggies, cheese, and some meat or boiled eggs.  Partner/Spouse likes the chop salads, too, and will add plenty of extra stuff to get them to his liking.

One things we’ve been exploring recently are the instant pasta side dishes.  You have to read ingredients carefully and find ones that will work well with your particular dietary needs.  We make them the night before and doctor them up as we like.  Once they’ve cooled, they go into a container and into the fridge.  The next day, he will use a microwave to heat it up, but I just eat it cold directly out of the bowl.  I’m strange like that.  So far, I’ve tried just one that was chicken gravy over pasta with some herbs and some chopped chicken I added.  It was good-ish.

I also like to do things like crackers and cheese.  But I want cheese with flavor, and I want high quality crackers.  And I like to have cherry tomatoes, celery, and grapes with it when possible.

So what are your go to lunch meals?

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This is an aside, but I have to tell you about it.  We went for a drive yesterday with no real plan or destination in mind and ended up in Stowe.  They were having an art festival and it was crowded and parking was impossible so we just went through without stopping.  But we found a year-round “farmer’s market” that we stopped at.  It was really more of an organic grocery store with whatever fresh local vegetables were available.

I found a basket of small tomatoes that were red and ripe so I got them.  You know, me and tomatoes, right?  They were much larger than cherry tomatoes, about the size of a golf ball and a half.  They are perfectly round and the flavor was so good!  I ate one in the car, and two more later in the afternoon.  So they’re going into lunches this week!-

Feel free to share far and wide, and as always,

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