Post #542 A Cake Left Out In The Rain

August 14, 2017 at 10:22 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This is a food blog.  You know that; I know that.  Today, it’s not a food blog.  A LOT has happened over the last week, and this is my forum to vent about it.  But, to start us off on the right foot, here’s a food related picture:

The original caption read: Our generation ate fruit and veggies floating in green jiggling slime so your generation didn’t have to.

Now, on to the other stuff.

In the last week our country was:  brought to the edge of nuclear war; the possibility of World War 3; the likelihood of our allies turning their backs on us; the possibility of an actual bomb attack on our shores; and an assembly of people espousing the rise of Nazi-ism where a state of emergency had to be declared and one person lost her life.  It’s been a roller coaster of emotions with barely a time to catch our breath before the next thing happens.  All of these incidents, an more, can be laid at the feet of our President, who refuses to be a leader, and does what is right for him and his cronies, rather than what’s right for his citizenry.  He’s enabled by the spineless majority party in congress who seem to believe that their corporate sponsors are more important that their constituents, the people who voted them into office.  Clearly, something has gone wrong.  It’s broken and needs to be fixed.

But that’s not what this post is about.

I get most of my news from the internet.  I spend a significant amount of time tracking down the veracity of news stories.  There are some sources I trust, but others I want independent verification before I’ll take for fact what they’re saying.  In short, a meme, while sometimes funny, is not enough to make me believe what it’s saying.  I used my FB feed to like a bunch of different news sites, and organizations so I don’t have to wander all the internet to see what I want to see.  I also have a bunch of friends and hobbies and writing and et cetera on my wall.

Some things make me impatient.  Click bait makes me impatient.  Deliberate ignorance makes me impatient.  Rudeness makes me impatient.

There’s something else, though, that I’ve been seeing a lot of recently, and it’s coming from people who are on the “right side of history”.  It makes me impatient.  They laughing and making fun of people.  That’s not right.

We’ve got a problem in our country.  We need to fix it.  We have turned into a country of factions instead of a union.  It’s no longer the country of “huddled masses”.   Our elected leaders don’t seem to be interested in bringing people together.

When I was a child on the playground and having an argument with someone, it inevitably devolved into name-calling, insults, then slugs.  Logic was never among our standard list of options.  Shouting the loudest determined who won.  Making fun of someone was the thing to do.

I’m seeing a lot of this on social media.  So many people say they want to bring the country together.  Millions want to fix the problems.  But millions of people are acting like kids in the school yard.  They shout the loudest.  They make fun of people.  They point and laugh out loud and insult people’s stupidity.  I can’t help but wonder, “How is this fixing things?”  When I want to help someone, or change someone’s mind, I know that the way NOT to do that is put them on the defensive.  I don’t belittle them.  I don’t make them feel inferior.  I don’t try to impress them with my smarts.  I try to find a common ground, a point where we agree on something and work from there.

Laughing at someone never, ever fixes things.  So why are we doing it?

Another thing that irritates me is someone who’s “involved” but is not impacted by the situation who says “Not my President.”

Guess what?  He is your President.  He was duly elected, and confirmed.  Just as we used to tell all those people who, for 8 years, said Obama wasn’t their President.  I don’t like it anymore than they do, but his is my President.  He is not my President of choice, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he’s holds the nations’ highest office, for good or ill.  I don’t like what he’s doing?  Then I work to change that.  I write letters to my congressmen to make sure they know how I feel.  I write letters to congressmen who are on committees making decisions about the things that impact my life.  I post things on social media to try to convince others to write letters, make phone calls, attend town hall meetings, talk to their elected officials.

And I vote.  That’s the biggest thing a citizen can do.  I let a congressman up for election know whether they have my vote or not, because that’s the biggest determinate of how an elected official will act.  They want to keep their jobs.

My point is, I work within the system.  I don’t cross my arms, act huffy, and protest by simply saying, “Not my President.”  That does nothing.

When I have to fix dinner (Hey!  I brought it back to food on a food blog!  How’s that for good writing?) and I don’t know what I’m going to fix, I look at what I have.  I figure out a recipe based on what’s at hand.  If I truly need something, I got get it.  But I get the job done because if I don’t, my family goes hungry and that simply isn’t an option.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a pot of rice and vegetables.  Other times, it a crown roast with stuffing.  But it’s always something.

The state of the country is much the same way.  I look at what I have on hand, and use what I’ve got to create something so my country gets fixed.  Because really and truly at this point, not doing something isn’t an option.  People are dying.  It’s got to stop.  The only people who are going to stop it is us.

Yesterday, Partner/Spouse wanted to do something nice.  He had watched a cooking episode on television and wanted to recreate it based on the things that I liked.  When he was done, he grumbled a little and said, “It doesn’t look the one on TV.  It was a lot harder than they made it look.”  But he got it done.

And it tasted so good!  It’s a raspberry/blackberry tart.

Thanks for letting me rant, and please feel free to share as you choose.

 

Post #541 What to Do With That Extra Cup of Sugar and a Dead Porcupine

August 7, 2017 at 5:48 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Okay, so I goofed over the weekend and found out what happens when you add a cup of sugar too much to a pan of brownies.  On Sunday, since we had a beautiful day, we decided to start by going to one of our favorite diners for breakfast.  They have the BEST bacon-egg-cheese-croissant sandwich anywhere.  It’s just so good it’s all I ever order.  Partner-Spouse varies his orders, but at this place, he likes the waffles, but he likes them plain with just butter and syrup.  So we were both tickled when we walked to the counter and she immediately wrote down my sandwich.  P-S then gave his order which was basically mine on an Everything Bagel.  For those who aren’t in the know, that’s a bagel with every kind of seed and seasoning imaginable on it.  She lifted her eyes and said, “No waffles?  Are you tired of them?”  We both laughed and he said, “No, just want something different.”

Pretty soon, they’re going to know us by name.

After we ate, we drove east then north for an hour and a half just to see new country.  We almost ended up in Cape Cod which is why we headed north.  One of these days, we’re going to head into Boston, but that’s not going to be a trip without a destination.  At least until we get to know the city a little bit.  But we did pass some really interesting historical areas and noticed quite a few antique stores that set our hearts pattering.

So when we got back home shortly before noon, he wanted to make bread and ended up with an artisan loaf with sesame seeds on the outside.  It was so good!  Then it was my turn since we were both jonesing for some home made brownies.

I’ve written about these brownies before.  They are simplicity itself and start to finish, it’s 45 minutes from no brownies to a pan of brownies cooling on the countertop.  Then, it’s a harsh two hour wait until the sugar is cool enough to handle.  Never eat brownies too soon.  You’ll end up with second degree burns in your mouth.

  • 1/2 cup of real butter, no substitutes here
  • 1 cup real sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (if you want a shiny, papery top)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts of your favorite kind if you want them

Melt the butter over low heat in a medium sauce pan.  Add the sugar and stir.  Take off heat and stir in the eggs and vanilla.  Add the cocoa powder and carefully mix it in until completely combined.  Add the flour, salt, and baking powder and mix till completely incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts if you’re using them.  Pour into an 8×8 inch baking pan and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.  Cool for at least two hours before cutting.

Anyone can do this.  I’ve done it a million times.  Yet on Sunday, I goofed it all up.  You see, I don’t have all my “normal” cooking utensils.  So things that are on autopilot have to stop.  They didn’t when I made these brownies.  So I melted the butter, measure the sugar, dumped it into the pans, started stirring, and immediately thought, “What the hell?”

There wasn’t nearly enough butter to incorporate the sugar.  I reviewed the recipe in my head to make sure I didn’t forget to add another stick of butter since I was doing this from memory.  I looked at the bag of sugar, noticed my measuring cup, and started cursing myself thoroughly.  Partner/Spouse asked, “What?”

“I put two cups of sugar into the brownies when it only needs one!”

My measuring cup is a two cup model.  And on autopilot, I filled it right up.  Cuz I used to have a one cup model (as well as a 2 cup, 4 cup, 8 cup, and 16 cup) and that’s what I typically used for making brownies since nothing was over one cup.  So griping to myself, I made adjustments in other ingredients to see if I could compensate.

When the brownies were done, they looked beautiful.  Two hours later?  It was like eating chocolate candy coated sugar.  And later than that?  It was a sweet brick.

Of course, looking back on it, I should have just adjusted the ingredients to make a cake and forget about the brownies.  But that decision came only after eating the sugar brick.  It would have been fairly easy, too.  Just increase the flour and add enough liquid to bring it to cake batter consistency.  It already had sugar, butter, eggs, and enough rising agent since I’d increased it.  Oh well, live and learn.  I bet I don’t make that mistake again.

But I made bread today, just to prove I could do it right, and it turned out great!

A while back, I promised a friend I’d re-share the recipe for Porcupine Meatballs.  This was a recipe I discovered in the cookbook my mom gave me for Christmas the year I started learning to cook.  It’s pretty decent.  It’s not made of porcupine.  It’s made of ground beef and has rice in it.  As it cooks, the rice swells and sticks out of the meatballs and looks a little like porcupine quills.  Thus, the name.  So here it is, for my friend!

  • Two pounds good quality ground beef, or a mixture of ground meats
  • 1/4 cup uncooked rice
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Alternatively, you can omit all spices and seasonings and add one envelope dried onion soup mix
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon prepared mustard
  • 14 oz can tomato sauce

Mix everything except last four ingredients together.  Form into well packed meatballs as large as you like.  In a large open skillet with a tight lid, heat a tablespoon of oil, and fry the meatballs lightly on each side.  Do this in batches if necessary.  When done frying, set meatballs aside and mix all wet ingredients in the skillet scraping the bottom carefully to incorporate all the brown bits of flavor, the fond.  Set the meatballs back into the sauce with any juices that have collected on the plate.  Set the temp to medium low, cover, and cook for about 45 minutes.  As the rice cooks, it will start poking out.  Serve in the sauce while hot or warm, with a salad or fresh bread, or both.  I tend to go a little crazy with the sauce and change it up to make an italian flavor by using a vinaigrette instead of the tomato sauce and ketchup.  Other times, I’ll give it an Asian flair with soy sauce, ginger, and other Asian flavors.  It’s really up to you how you want to create it.

So just to prove I could be successful in the kitchen, I made fresh thick cut oven fries, chopped tomatoes, and hamburger steaks while P/S made home made onion rings for dinner.  It was good even if the brownies weren’t.

Post #540 Updates on Life

July 26, 2017 at 2:49 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Well, the virus that hit me last week was more stringent than I thought at first.  I’m fine now, but it took longer to recover than I thought it would.  This is standard stuff for Partner/Spouse and I.  It takes anywhere from 6-8 months to acclimate to any new hospital system’s germs.  So we spend that time getting sick and getting better until all the antibodies for all the local ills are set in place and we can move forward.  This is the first real illness to befall us, and certainly won’t be the last.  So, we’ve had some “fun” stuff going on.

You may recall our sojourn to this great place.  We had movers come in and load up our already packed boxes and take them to their warehouse in another state to store until we had moved into a place.  The hospital booked the movers and advanced the funds to pay them off.  However, they never delivered, and kept giving excuses instead of furniture and belongings.  The hospital got involved with their legal team since they felt responsible.  Back and forth, back and forth, and just when we thought it was all resolved, the moving company came back with a bombshell.  According to them, and providing photographic proof, the warehouse was the victim of a weather related catastrophe.  Total loss.  We are not getting our stuff.  And it’s likely to take several weeks to resolve the insurance claims.  So, we have the few bits we brought with us (computers, luckily), but that’s all.  One of those, WTF moments.  Also kind of an “It can only happen to Joe” kind of moment, too.  The hospital lawyers are still representing us pro bono, and Partner/Spouse thinks they may advance us the settlement.  In the meantime, we’re working on lists of things we need to replace, and prioritizing the order of replacing the stuff.  But it’s all okay.  It’s stuff, that’s all.  Some of it had high emotional value and can’t be replaced, but whaddaya gonna do?  We can’t live backwards, only forwards.  Plus there’s always chocolate.

Last week, while I was still sick and not entirely in my proper frame of mind, I decided to try to pull myself out of the doldrums and make bread.  I didn’t have a stand mixer, but I did have a hand mixer with a power/low speed setting and dough hooks!  Anyone who’s read this blog over time knows that my holy grail is the perfect bread recipe and I think I’ve come close to finding it.  I’m the time testing part of the quest.  And thanks to my good buddy at Food Interactive on FB, I have a recipe that I love!  And so far, it’s standing the test of repetition.  I won’t put the recipe here because it’s published in a couple of previous posts.  Search “best bread”  and you’ll find it.

So I pulled all the ingredients together and got out a bowl.  Out came the mixer and the dough hooks, and into the bowl with the ingredients.  Power on and there I go!  I knew that I wanted to knead this mix for about ten minutes, so I didn’t want to leave in the bowl for too long, but I also knew that I wanted it to be fully mixed and in one cohesive ball.  I’ve never mixed bread with a hand mixer before and I was fascinated by watching the dough come together.  Always before it had been in a bread machine or a stand mixer, both of which I could walk away from and come back later to a mound of bread dough.  This was kind of fun.  I could make adjustment to the dough immediately because I was watching it closely.  When it finished up and became a single wad of dough, I felt like I had accomplished something on my own.  So I turned it out on the granite counter which I’d floured and went to work on kneading.  I don’t know if it was because of the hand mixer, or the fact that I wasn’t 100%, but the dough felt different, and kneading it was easier than normal.  It was slightly sticky, which would be normal given the difference in mixing methods, but the flour on the surface took care of that.

Have you ever watched The Great British Bake Off on PBS?  It’s a cooking competition from Great Britain where non-professional home cooks enter a contest that’s several weeks long.  Each week highlights a baking technique and each week someone is eliminated until three contestants face the final bake off.  It’s a lot of fun and I’m totally addicted to it.  We even bought the DVDs for each season that’s available.  There are some standard competitions through the seasons, and one of those is bread week.  And I learned a way to determine if you’ve kneaded the dough enough.  When you think it’s ready, you break off a small chunk of dough and hold it to the light and stretch it gently.  If you can stretch it think enough to see through, a window pane, without it breaking or tearing, it’s kneaded properly.  So I did that.  The key to good bread is having enough gluten to hold it together and give a good chew, but not have so much that it become tough and hard to chew.  The window pane test works.

So I went through all the other steps, proofing, shaping, proofing again, then baking.  It smelled wonderful.  Fresh baked bread always smells wonderful.  Since I had two loaves, I decided to make one loaf a cinnamon swirl to have for breakfast toast.  So when I had the bread rolled out to a 9×14 rectangle, I spread a mixture of brown sugar, white sugar, and cinnamon on the top, a pretty thick layer.  Then I rolled up tightly so there would be a decent swirl inside.  Cinnamon retards yeast activity so it needs to rise longer.  Both loaves came out looking and smelling great.

We had some for with dinner that night and the bread was a little disappointing, but Partner/Spouse said it tasted good, so put it down to not feeling well.  The next morning, I made toast out of the cinnamon swirl.  I had to throw it away.  It tasted too salty.  But I wasn’t feeling well, and my taste buds were off.  I mentioned it to Partner/Spouse and we discussed it, but not deeply or for long.  A few days later, he tried the cinnamon swirl, pronounced it disgusting, so I tossed it.  The white loaf was in the fridge, a big no-no with bread, but since there were no preservatives in it, I didn’t want it to get moldy.  So last night, I wanted to make cottage eggs.  Those are eggs cooked inside a ring cut of a piece of bread so the bread toasts in the pan while the eggs cooks.  I cut four thick slices and used a biscuit cutter to cut out the rings.  Since I was feeling much better, I decided to test the bread again.  It wasn’t too salty, but it was certainly salty.  Uncomfortably so.  Into the trash it went, and back to the recipe I went.  And discovered the mistake.  One tablespoon of salt, not two.  Lesson learned:  do not bake when you can’t pay attention.  And I will never again make fun of a competitor who forgets an ingredient during a bake.

So, overall, things are looking up.  Despite bad bread, no more stuff, and illness, we’re still moving forward in a place we still enjoy the heck out of, and the dogs are fat and happy.  Life is good.  And the soup is on the stove.

Post #539 A Weekend Full of Diners

July 17, 2017 at 3:39 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The was a dinerful weekend.  We visited three different diners on three different days and had three different experiences.  One thing we’re discovering about our new home is that independent, hole-in-the-wall style diners are not in short supply.  If you keep your eyes peeled, you’ll find one in the most out of the way place.  Back where I grew up, many little restaurants that specialized in local cuisine could be found in someone’s house, or tucked way in the back of a mom-and-pop grocery store.  It’s similar here.  I’m going to leave out names since I don’t want to piss anyone off.

On Friday night, “date night” for us, we went to a small, locally owned bar and grill.  The are literally across the street on the side of us.  Takes all of five minutes walking time, or less.  We’d been talking about going there ever since we first saw the apartment building.  We were pretty jazzed by the hominess of having a local eating spot so close.  So easy to nip into on those evenings when we didn’t feel like cooking!  So with high expectations, we wandered over and found our way inside.

To a wall of noise.  I literally had a headache within five minutes.  As with most diners, it was a seat yourself atmosphere, so we chose a table near a window.  The service was good.  The waitress showed up within seconds with menus.  We both ordered sodas.

“Don’t you want a glass of wine?” he asked.

I shook my head.  “I don’t see a wine list, and it’s far too loud to try to have a conversation.  I’ve got wine at home.”

We ordered fairly quickly, but even in that time, the place got busier and much much louder.  I had fish and chips, and Partner/Spouse had a Delmonico steak sandwich.  I got a huge plank of scrod, and a sizeable portion of fries along with a small bowl of cole slaw.  I don’t eat that stuff so it went immediately to the other side of the table.  I gotta say, though, the fish was cooked perfectly.  I wasn’t frozen first; you can tell when that happens.  And there was about twice as much as I could ever eat.  The Delmonico sandwich was a bust, though.  He said it wasn’t a real Delmonico steak.  For those who don’t know, the Delmonico cut is basically just a ribeye made famous by the New York City restaurant of the same name.  And this wasn’t.  But overall, it was a bust.  Even before we left, we had already agreed that it wasn’t a place we were going back to.  Despite its close proximity, it wasn’t enjoyable enough to warrant a return.  I mean, one large fellow was so loud, his 8 year old nephew had to remind him twice to use his inside voice.  He didn’t quiet down until his food was served.  Oh, and going back to the food for a moment, we ordered an appetizer of “nachos”.  She asked if we wanted cheese on that?  Melted cheese sort of defines what a nacho is.  Just to see what we’d get, we said no, and we got a basket of heated round tortilla chips from a bag, and a side of Pace salsa.  Mild salsa.  I enjoyed the salsa because I’ve always liked Pace brand salsa, but it wasn’t nachos.

So the next morning, we were discussing our morning errands.  We had a lot of ground to cover to get everything on our list done and home by noon.  Partner/Spouse had some work to do, and we like to have our weekend afternoons free to relax and listen to music and read.  So we stopped at a small diner we’ve passed a bazillion times and have always said, “We gotta try that some day.”  So Saturday was “the day”.  Again, we sat ourselves, and I immediately liked the place.  It was small, cozy, and the menu was typical diner fare, but also had things not usually found.  Again, we ordered sodas (neither of us enjoy coffee, cocoa, or juice) and perused the menu.  I got an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on an English muffin.  Partner/Spouse ordered a plain waffle with home fries and bacon.  I received an egg, cheese, and bacon sandwich on an English muffin, while Partner/Spouse received French toast with whipped cream, chocolate syrup swirls, and strawberries; and an argument when he said that wasn’t what he ordered.  Rather than wait, he chose to eat it.  He’s okay with French toast, but he really wanted a waffle.  And he’s like me; can’t stand strawberries.  I even tried one to see if I still dislike them.  I do.  But overall, I thought it was an enjoyable experience.  Partner/Spouse didn’t have a good time, but was willing to give it another shot.  Part of what I liked about it was it lived up to it’s name as a family business.   Momma was cleaning and serving.  Poppa was cooking (I think) and heavily pregnant daughter was waiting tables and cooking as well.  There was a small gang of men at the counter near the ordering window.  From the friendly banter and relaxed attitude, I assumed they were either old friends, or family not employed by the diner.  I liked it.

Sunday morning, Partner/Spouse wanted to go to a diner for the express purpose of eating at a place called Snoopy’s.

It was another 50’s style diner, small and close quarters.  We sat ourselves at a booth and immediately regretted it.  I’m not super thin, but I’m not overly bulky either.  I could barely breathe after squeezing in.  I couldn’t even draw a full breath to cough.  The waitress explained that the benches moved a bit and after the people in the booth behind me left, we were able to make ourselves a tad more comfortable.  They had one of those flip-style juke boxes at each table, so we punched a number in.  We were pleasantly surprised when our selection started playing a few minutes later.  We couldn’t get it to work after that, but the music was good enough.  Apparently, it was good enough for most of the patrons, because there was more than one singing along.  One guy was fairly loud, but not obnoxiously so.  And his rendition of whatever he was singing was funny enough that we all just laughed at him.  I wondered if they had a karaoke night, but we decided probably not since it was such close quarters.  I got a cheese and bacon omelet with a side of sausage, and Partner/Spouse finally got his plain waffle with home fries and a side of bacon.  Everything was superlative.  Funny thing, though, our waitress looked like Olive Oyl; the cook looked like Popeye; and the other waitress/cleanup looked like Momma Oyl.  They all looked like they’d stepped out of the movie “Popeye” starring Robin Williams.  But it was fun, cheap, and good.  We decided we’d be back.  But we’d sit at the counter next time.

So that was our dinerful weekend.  Hope your weekend was fun and adventurous, too.

Post #538 A 30 Minute Meal

July 14, 2017 at 3:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Not sure if I’ve ever shared this story before so if you remember it, just chalk it up to old age.  Mine, not yours.  When my nephew was about five or six, his mom had a job where she worked varying shifts.  At times, when she worked nights, I’d watch the kids when they got home from school, until their dad got home.  He’d come by and collect them, spend some time with our parents, and eventually go home.  One time, I was in the kitchen making something for dinner, and I think it was spaghetti and salad.  My nephew was watching me, then asked,” Uncle Joe, can we have dinner with you guys?”

I was surprised, but said, “Sure, it doesn’t matter to me.  But I think you dad has something for you over at your house.”

He looked disgusted and said with that amount of derision that only a small child can manage, “Probably just cereal.”

“What?” I said, my voice ratcheting up a few notches.  “Go get your dad.”

We had a short but heated discussion wherein I told him how to make good, solid, nutritious dinners in 30-45 minutes so the kids didn’t have to eat cereal for dinner anymore.

So a few nights ago, it was getting to be dinner time around our place.  We usually eat fairly late, anywhere from 6:30pm to 8pm.  Both of us had been under the weather for several days, so our energy levels were pretty low.  I had taken out a couple of pork chops from the freezer so protein was set.  We still tend to organize our meals around the protein choice as much as I’d like to get away from that.  Neither of us was up to fiddling with complicated recipes or loads of veggies.

Finally at 6pm I said, “How does grilled chops and mashed potatoes sound?”

“Perfect.” was the reply and I moved to get up.

First, I had to heat the grill pan for the chops.

For any who don’t remember, we have a cast iron grill pan shallow sloping sides.

We love this thing and use it  probably three to four times a week.  It’s made by Lodge, and we found it at an Ace Hardware in Tucson.  It cost about $20 and we’re going to have it until we die.  Then we’ll bequeath it to someone.  It’s a great pan.

But since it’s cast iron, it takes forever to heat up.  So I set it on the stove, turned the burner on high, and turned to the pork chops.  They were blade chops.  They were huge, but the amount of edible meat on them was deceptive.  I used one of our newly sharpened filet knives (we have two) and hacked off as much fat and gristle as I could.  Then I sprinkled salt on them and set them aside.

Now for the potatoes.  I like potatoes now.  I didn’t when I was a kid.  I was known far and wide for not liking potatoes.  I’d eat french fries and potato chips, but that was all.  As I got older, my tastes changed, and I learned about different kinds of potatoes, and different ways to cook them.  Now I like potatoes, even my one-time nemesis, mash potatoes.

  • SIDE NOTE:  My mom used to make a casserole out of boxed Au Gratin potatoes, corn, and spam.  Not a pretty site, and guaranteed to make sure I went to bed hungry.

However, most ways to cook potatoes take a significant amount of time.  The already prepared box mixes and instant mash potatoes, in the old days, tasted terrible.  Then something happened.  One company heard my unspoken yearning and came up with an instant mashed potato mix that was phenomenal.

They are absolutely the best.  They aren’t expensive in any sense of the word, but when we see them go on sale, we stock up.  We usually have 7-10 packages on hand all the time.  They come in a variety of flavors, and we have found a few that should have been left in the idea bin, but for the most part, they’re all good.  Our favorites include the one above, plus the loaded baked potato, the four cheese, garlic and herb, lumpy redskin potato, and homestyle butter flavored.  I’m not kidding, when you get the flavored packages, you don’t need anything on top of them.

So the process is boil water.  Pour two cups of boiling water into a bowl.  Use a whisk to stir the contents of the package slowly into the water, making certain to mix completely.  Let it set for two minutes, whisk it again to fluff it a little, and serve it.  It will stand for several minutes in its hot state so you can make it a few minutes ahead.  There’s just enough in the package for two adults and two small dogs.  Potatoes are great for dogs, and ours are addicted to them.  Their tales start wagging as soon as they see one of the packages come out of the pantry.

So, I put water on to boil when I started heating the grill pan.  By the time the water was boiling, the grill pan was nearly ready.  By the time the potatoes were whisked and set aside, the grill pan was ready.

Pork should be thoroughly cooked but juicy.  Salting it ahead of time helps maintain the juiciness.  With the grill pan screaming hot, I set the chops on and waited until the searing process released the meat, about 4-5 minutes.  The marbled fat within and around the chops helped season the pan, so when I turned them over, I cooked them for only four minutes more.  I moved them to a plate and covered them with foil.

Now it was time to set the table.  Two plates, two napkins, two forks, two knives, some cut artisan bread, a bowl of potatoes with a serving spoon, and two different kinds of butter because we’re two different kinds of people.  Partner/Spouse already had his drink ready and waiting at the table.  I uncovered the chops and drained the juices into one of the dog bowls cuz I don’t waste a thing, and set them on the table.  I got my drink ready and we sat down.

I glanced at the time.  It was 6:34.  A thirty minute meal.  Adding a salad or other veggies would have added about two minutes to the process.  Voila!  I nearly wrote to my brother to tell him about it.

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