Post #465 What Was For Dinner

March 30, 2016 at 11:02 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

As you no doubt know, I’ve been busy recently.  I’ve moaned about it here a couple of times.  Because of odd schedules, Partner/Spouse and I haven’t had much time to eat together, and barely time to say HI before leaving for work, or going to bed.  So when we do have those odd days where we can have a relaxing meal together, we try to make them special in some way.  Sometimes he cooks, and other times I cook.  This is what happened one day last week.

I was home all day.  I was mostly on the computer since I’ve been working on the business end of writing recently.  But I also was cleaning, catching up on laundry , etc. while considering what was for dinner that night.  Time wasn’t pressing, but was certainly a consideration.

We had a sale on chicken at the store so we have a lot (I’m making some tonight as a matter of fact) and that’s what we were going to have.  I thawed out two chicken breasts, each weighing over a pound, and had them in brine for an hour to keep them juicy.

I haven’t made rice in a while, so that was definitely on the menu.  We were both in the mood for fried cabbage which we both love, but wanted a different twist on it.  So here’s the pieces:

dinner 2

I dried the chicken breasts off and coated them lightly with olive oil.  I rolled them in a blend of panko bread crumbs and a spice mix from McCormick called Baja Citrus.  I’m not a big fan of commercial spice blends since they tend to rely on salt, but this one is a favorite because of the citrus over-tones.  It’s a little heavy since it’s actually for meats, not fowl, but it’s good.  So I took about 3/4 cup panko and the spice mix package and mixed them together in a shallow bowl, reserving about two tablespoons for later.  Then I dredged the chicken through it so it was thickly coated all round.  I put the chicken in a glass baking dish and set it in the oven at 350 for an hour.  I wanted to be certain the chicken was cooked throughout.  When the chicken was done, I turned the oven off but left the chicken in it to stay warm.

dinner 3

I made a pot of Jasmine rice.  Jasmine is Partner/Spouse’s favorite while mine is basmati.  We have a brand new set of Calphalon cookware and this meal was their inauguration.  I heated up a tablespoon of canola oil in the pot and put a cup of rice in it.  I stirred the rice to coat it evenly in the oil, then let it brown just a bit.  Just before adding the chicken broth, I added reserved panko/spice blend and stirred it around.  Then I added two cups of chicken broth, allowed it bubble for a minute, then covered and turned the heat down to just barely there.  The rice simmered for 15 minutes, then I took it off the heat to finish cooking.

dinner 4

The fried cabbage turned into something else that was wonderful.  I used our new cookware wok for this.  I chopped a head of bok choy (Chinese cabbage with a wonderful flavor) and mixed with two stalks of chopped leeks.  Ever have leeks?  No?  Use them.  They are so good.  I heated two tablespoons of oil in the wok and turned the veggies into the pan.  Using wooden spatulas, I flipped, stirred, and moved the mix around to cook throughout, but remain crisp.  Just before serving, I tossed in two tablespoons of butter to melt and add flavor, and added a small handful of sliced almonds.

Here’s the result:

dinner 1

The rice was perfectly cooked, each grain standing alone, and packed with flavor.  The chicken was warm and crispy on the outside.  The veggies were done to a turn, crispy stalks, wilted leaves, and crunchy nuts.  So good.  We ate until the burping stage and the dogs had a ton of chicken and rice for two or three meals after.

So good.  Tonight, slow cooker chicken in green salsa.  I’ll let you know how that turns out.


Post #464 Biking The Canned Goods Home

March 29, 2016 at 11:07 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #464 Biking The Canned Goods Home

Hi, miss me?  Took an unexpected and unenforced break.  Work life, and personal life got incredibly busy and completely exhausting.  Wish I could say productive, too, but not as much as I’d like.   So, I’m back again, and ready to tell another story where food is the star.

I was working at the store a couple of nights ago.  We’re having a canned goods sale.  10 for $10, basically a dollar apiece.  You can mix and match from a huge variety of brands.  We’ve seen a lot of cans go by on the conveyor belt at the registers.  This night, I was assigned cashiering duties, and this lady put about forty cans on the belt.  I’m a fast checker so I got through the entire order in just a couple of minutes, and while I was bagging everything we got to talking.  She was replenishing her pantry which she kept full in case of emergencies, snow, hurricanes, etc.  Except for baked beans type of veggies, I don’t do cans anymore.  Fresh is best and we’re in the cradle of fresh farm foods here.


As we were chatting, I remembered an incident from my youth and told her about it.  We were both laughing near tears by the end of it.

There was a time when canned veggies were regularly on my table.  It was my first foray out of the house I grew up in and I was still eating the only way I knew how.  Mom was an inveterate can opening user.  She had four or five favorites that appeared on our table constantly.  Canned corn, canned green beans, canned peas, canned mix veggies, and (oddly) canned asparagus.  It was like a rotation.  I realize now that it was the vegetables she loved in the cheapest and longest lasting way she could buy them.  Plus, she was cooking like her mother, etc.  So when I moved out and shopped for myself, I naturally went to the canned veggies cuz that’s what I knew.

I know this sounds confusing given that once I started cooking for the family, our menus changed a great deal, but I cooked fresh veggies and made salads and still used cans.   I hadn’t started my foray into the frozen veggie section of the supermarket yet.

At the time this took place, I was riding my bicycle everywhere I went.  It was a relatively small town, I was in good shape, as long as I planned it right, I could bike wherever I needed to  with no trouble.  I had a backpack to carry things in and I still had my car for long distances.  So one Saturday, I was heading home from somewhere on my bike and planned a grocery shopping trip so I had my pack with me.  It was a big blue clunky thing that was really designed as an overnight hiking pack more than just a “tool around town” kind of pack so prevalent today.  It was roomy, deceptively so.

I got to the store, put my pack in the cart, and started my round through the store.  When I hit the canned goods aisle, I had to make some quick thinking adjustments.  They were having a sale on cans, and it was a GREAT sale, something 25 cents a can.  So I loaded up.  I bought the few other things I needed, loaded my pack (still in the cart, by the way) and went out to my bike.  I unlocked it, stored the cable and lock, and reached down for the pack.

I’m a pretty strong guy.  I surprise people most of the time because I’m not big and bulky, but I’m pretty powerful.  At that time, I weighed around 145 pounds, my waist was about 29 inches, my chest not much bigger, and I had the proverbial pipe-cleaner biceps.  But I could still handle throwing 50-75 pound boxes of oil cans around, and help Dad and my brother lift railroad ties and car engines.

That pack was flippin’ heavy!

“Holy cow,” I muttered.  I managed to get it on my back, but it wouldn’t set comfortably because the can edges kept poking.  I got on the bike and wobbled out of the parking lot as I shifted the weight around.  The cans kept rolling and moving, like water trying seeking its own level.  As fit as I was, I couldn’t get the bike to go more than 15 mph because of that weight.  I opted to take back roads, less traveled so I wouldn’t tie up traffic.  It was summer, but there was still traffic in our town in the afternoon despite the blazing desert sun.

Sweat was dripping off my forehead after fifteen minutes.  Normally by this time, I’d be nearing the edge of town with only another two miles to go to where I was living.  I hadn’t even reached Dad’s gas station and I was wondering if I was going to make it.

Dad’s gas station!  That was the answer!

I pulled in and let the pack down with a clunk.  Dad had seen me coming in and walked over.  His eyebrows lifted when he heard the crash.

“What’s up?” he asked.

I groaned as I straightened my shoulders.  “They had a can sale at the store.  I think I bought too much.”

He started laughing.  “Too much for you, huh?”

“Just a little.  When are you off?”

“Two more hours.  You want me to drop that by on my way home, right?”

I nodded, still working the kinks out of my back.  “Would you mind?”

I went through the pack and pulled out the things I needed immediately and tied them into a plastic bag.  I managed to rig some sort of pack out of an old shirt in my dad’s truck.  When I started off again, what a world of difference!

Dad pulled up to my place a couple of hours later and came in.

“Where’s the pack?” I asked hoping he hadn’t forgotten it.

“You get it,” he said.  “I could barely lift it into the truck.  The rest is your responsibility.”

I didn’t have to buy canned veggies for a long time.  I wonder if that’s when I started looking at other alternatives.


Post #463 Another New Favorite Diner

March 14, 2016 at 12:03 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #463 Another New Favorite Diner

So we had a fun weekend with houseguests and a late birthday celebration for one of those guests.  Sunday morning, we planned to take them to our new favorite diner which I wrote about a few weeks ago.  As you know, this weekend was “Spring forward” daylight savings time.  So we were all feeling a little less than chipper with the time change.  It was after 10 am before we got a start.  When we arrived at our favorite diner, it was full.  I don’t just mean it was full.  It was packed to the rafters full.  There wasn’t even a parking spot available.

So we drove back towards the house and on the way remembered another diner we’d been wanting to try.  We took a chance.

Turns out, our little town has an airport?  Whoda thunk it?

Kays 2

Attached to the terminal, on the right, is a restaurant!  You can see the doorway there just past the flag poles.  This is Kay’s At The Airport and is a much-talked-about restaurant around town.  People love it.  There’s lots to love.

First, it’s a small place, not more than twenty tables.  It’s personable.  The staff is chatty and charming, even when busy.  I’ve talked with the owner at the store a couple of times.  One of the funner parts of the experience is the view.

Kays 1

Windows all the way around on three sides so every table can see out.

It’s a small menu, but definitely regional.  If you want crab, it’s on the menu.

Our selections weren’t as varied as they might normally be.  I got a meat lovers omelet with mushroom added.  It came standard with home fries and toast which I substituted with an English muffin.  An added thoughtful gesture, the butter was on the table rather than being put on before it came to the table.  I was able to spread as much or as little as I chose.

One guest ordered eggs benedict with lump meat crab.  It was real eggs benedict.  It was served on an English muffin.  It was a poached egg with hollandaise sauce over the top.  There was a lightly grilled tomato slice underneath.  But instead of Canadian bacon, or ham, or bacon, it had a generous portion of crab.  And there were two eggs on the plate.  Mostly I’ve seen eggs benedict come with just the one egg set up.  This plate had two.  Two English muffin halves, two eggs, two tomato slices, two spoonfuls of hollandaise sauce, two big portions of crab.  It was impressive.

The funniest part of the whole experience was when Partner/Spouse ordered his Belgian waffle.  At the beginning when we placed our drinks order, I’d read the menu and ordered a coke.

“Will Pepsi be okay?” our server asked.

I nodded.  “Preferable, actually.”

She smiled.  “We switched over to Pepsi a while back but the menus aren’t updated.”

So when Partner/Spouse asked for the Belgian waffles (which looked really good) the server again looked embarrassed.  “I’m sorry,” she said.  “We don’t have the waffles right.  Our waffle iron is broken.  The menus haven’t been updated.”

So another meat lovers omelet to along with the others.  During the meal, we discussed the plausibility of buying them a new waffle iron.

The food was just a little slow, nothing to get irritated over, it was a busy morning.  It arrived hot and fresh, and most importantly, correct for all the changes, additions, or substitutions.  I’ve been to high end national chains where that doesn’t happen.

And the food was good!  The omelet was so large, I couldn’t finish it.  And the mushrooms were plentiful.  Lots of places won’t add enough, but that was no trouble here.

The clientele were obvious regulars.  The menu was full of surprises.  The staff was great.  The chef was phenomenal.

So a new favorite diner within a month of finding our last favorite diner.  We like our little town.


Post #462 Apples and Bananas

March 9, 2016 at 8:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I saw a cute commercial the other day.  Cute, that is, until I listened to the message.  I backed it up and watched it again, then did it again.  It’s embedded down below if you want to see it.  There’s a voice over of a cute kid’s voice singing the alphabet song “Apples and Bananas.”  While the commercial plays, a young boy is searching through his kitchen for an after school snack.  There’s nothing for him to eat as the song keeps playing “I want to eat, eat, eat apples and bananas.”  The kid must wait until the parents get home and fix dinner, if there’s anything to fix.

I know it’s only March, but in reality the school year is coming to an end in a few short weeks and childhood hunger for the summer months is rearing it’s ugly head.  For many kids, the meals they get in school are the only meals they can count on.  Through no fault of their own, or their parents, food is scarce in their households.

I can handle being hungry for myself.  I can’t handle other people being hungry.  Not when I can do something about it.  There’s a cute internet meme going around recently showing a cute dog that says “I’d go hungry to make sure my dog doesn’t miss a meal.  Like and Share if you would too.”  I not only would but I have.  I’ve given the last bite of my sandwich to my dogs since I was old enough to stand.  I’ve given half my cake to my little brother because he looked hungry.

Childhood hunger is about the worst thing I can think of.

I remember once when I was in second or third grade it was getting to be late morning and we were all looking at the clock counting minutes till lunch time.  For me, lunch time was really just an excuse to get out on playground and run until I couldn’t breathe.  I was doing some kind of school work when suddenly I heard quiet sobs.  Just about the time I looked up to see one of my classmates crying into her desk, the teach moved to her to find out what was wrong.

“I’m hungry,” she said quietly.  For whatever reason, she had not eaten breakfast that morning, and the minutes stretching to lunch were just too much for her.  Without thinking, I grabbed an apple from my lunch bag and wordlessly handed it to her.  Our teacher took it and gave it to her but made certain that I had enough for lunch too.  The girl went to the hallway with the teacher to eat the apple in privacy and was beaming when she came back.  We were friends for the rest of the school year, and I don’t remember that I ever had to give her another apple.

Nowadays, I work in a grocery store, except I can’t really call it work.  It’s more like playtime for me.  I get to talk to people all day long about food, recipes, helping them find things.  One of the things the store does is reach out to kids.  We have stickers for them on large rolls that we can tear off as many as we want.  We have toys in the center that are for sale, but also for play.  We have programs where kids can fill out large sheets to locate and identify things in the store and earn treats.

We have an “apples and bananas” card.  The kids bring the card with them when they’re shopping with their parents and they can select one apple or one banana and hand over their card.  We scan it and give it back, and the kid has a free apple or banana.  So when I heard that commercial the other day, it struck a chord.

The organization that sponsored the ad was called Feed America.  It’s been in operation for several years and word to raise awareness of childhood hunger, as well as letting people know what they can do to help with the problem.  They will help people locate food banks, local programs for food subsidies or free foods, or volunteer efforts for people who want to do so.  You can also donate to their organization to assist the national effort.  Their website is below.

Feed America

I’ve gone to bed hungry plenty of times, but it was nearly always by choice, and with the knowledge that I would be getting fed within a few hours.  There are hundreds of thousands of children who go to bed hungry and don’t know when that will end.  I encourage all my readers to take time to find out what they can do to ease that situation.

Sometimes, it’s just about apples and bananas.



Post #461 We Rescue Dogs

March 7, 2016 at 10:24 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #461 We Rescue Dogs

I started rescuing dogs a long time ago.  I concentrated on mostly cocker spaniels because I always like Lady and The Tramp from Disney.  My first was a tiny little girl I named Shasta.  She and I stayed together for 15 years before she crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  It’s the hardest part of being a pet owner, letting go for the best interest of the pet.

Currently, we have two rescues.  We have Jack, black cocker spaniel/poodle mix, and Buddy, a black and white Boston Terrier who looks like he’s wearing a tuxedo.  We arrived in our little town with three rescue dogs.  Dusty, our big brown mellow surfer dude cocker spaniel crossed the Rainbow Bridge last July.  It was a rough time for us all.

Dusty was a stud dog at a puppy mill.  He spent his first five years in a cage.  When we got him, he was only starting his socialization process.  On the drive home from the adoption event, he sat in the back seat with Ex-wife and stared at the back of the seat.  He could only handle a small part of the world so he concentrated on that.  Due to his life at the puppy mill, he didn’t know a lot of things, so we consulted with our vet before we got him.  Her advice was to let Jack teach him to be a dog again.

Dusty learned fast but his learning was sporadic.  He learned to pee and poop outside almost immediately.  He never barked much, but did learn to run in the woods.  He learned to relax on car rides, even though once in while he’d stare at the back of the seat.  One thing that totally flummoxed him was stairs.  Going up the stairs was easy.  He balked at going down.  So he’d jump.  It was only a half-flight of stairs so the drop wasn’t large, but it was always a little disconcerting to see this little brown torpedo flying past the kitchen doorway as he launched himself.

He weighed about fifteen pounds when we got him and we were told to get his weight up.  Not a problem for us.  He turned fat and happy in about a month and stayed that way until his final illness.  He was a very picky eater.  He wouldn’t eat the same dog food more than four times in a row.  We could fool him by adding stuff to it, gravy, melted butter, a little cheese, but after a while he’d just say “Nope!  Not going to do it.”  And he’d go hungry for a day.  Then he’d start eating again with no problem.

That’s why his final illness took us by surprise.  He stopped eating and we thought it was his normal eating process.  But he never really started eating again.  By the time we noticed the growth, it was too late.  We made him comfortable, took him to the vet, and stayed with him to the end.  The working hypothesis is that the drugs the puppy mill gave him to keep him “studly” had an impact on his system and finally caused the tumor.

Dusty 04

The reason for this post is not make anyone sad.  We made the last half of his life a doggy heaven and he loved us unconditionally, as we did him.  But feeding a picky eater is hard and I was constantly looking for doggy recipes for him and the others.

The easiest is always rice.  Plain white rice, with chopped meat in it is best.  Dogs love it and it helps aid their digestion.  I use leftover chicken or hamburger and put a little dried dog food in it to make sure they get their proper nutrition.

I’ve also made homemade dog biscuits.  I made this recipe for Dusty just before the end to try to coax him to eat.  He ate a few of them, but he wasn’t really into it.

  • 2 1/2 cups flour and oats combo
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp beef or chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • Optional add ins: peanut butter, shredded cheese, bacon bits, hard boiled egg, small diced chicken, etc.

Heat oven to 350.  Dissolve bouillon in hot water in a large bowl, then add other ingredients forming a stiff dough.  Knead the dough for 5 minutes.  Roll out dough to 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into slices 1/2 inch wide and 2-3 inches long.  Twist them slightly and place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake 30 minutes.  Cool completely.  Store in zip lock bags in fridge.

But the reason I got to thinking about Dusty is I found another dog food recipe that looked easy and good, and can actually feed people too.

  • 2 pounds hamburger
  • 1 cup chopped carrot
  • 1 can kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup butternut squash, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1 1/2 cups rice (brown is preferred, but used what you got)
  • 4 cups water

Place it all in a crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours.  Stir to combine thoroughly.  Cool and serve to the dogs.  Or taste it and eat it yourself while it’s hot.  You might want to add your favorite herbs and spices if you’re eating it yourself.  Don’t put any herbs and spices in for the dogs, though.

Since I posted a picture of Dusty, here’s Jack and Buddy.

Jack 18

Buddy 11

We love rescuing dogs, and we typically rescue the older ones.  It means a lot of goodbyes, but it also means joy and happiness for them and for us.

And as always,


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