Post #567 Catch You On The Flipside

March 25, 2018 at 7:37 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I’m really sorry folks, but my energy levels have tanked this week.  I’m going to take a break from blogging to concentrate on my health issues.  I want to thank everyone who reached out to me; it was sincerely appreciated.  I’m going to be fine.  It’s just going to take a little more time than I expected.  Please feel free to reach out to me on the blog or on FB.  I have a FB page for the blog which I’ll be adding posts to pretty often so you can see what’s happening.  I’m keeping the actual specifics of the health stuff off FB so I’d appreciate it if you would, as well.

For now, I’ll leave you with some giggles I’ve shared before.  And as always,

Jack Relaxing

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Post #566 A Pick-Me-Up Weekend

March 19, 2018 at 6:40 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

So, the health issues aren’t looking well, and I’ll be posting an update in a few weeks once the way forward is clearer.  But my mood has been down-ish and Partner/Spouse has, of course, picked up on it.  Being the sweet, kind, caring man that he is, he planned a few things for the weekend designed to get my spirits up.

Friday night is always the unofficial-official start of any good weekend.  So Friday night, we walked down to our local restaurant.  I was jonesing for a pizza.  This is one of those local places where the staff knows nearly everyone who walks in the door.  We like the place not only because it’s walking distance from our loft but the food is really good and fairly plentiful.  And if you’re there at the right time, the other customers are always a side show.  As we walked in, I held the door for an older couple, the lady was using a walker.  They went to a back booth along the same aisle we sat in.  Later, because I do this kind of thing, I watched their order set in front of them.  There were 3 large bowls of something, and a smaller plate.  By larger bowls, I mean they were laaaarge.  By the time we left, they were still working their way through it all.  A family came in after we did, a granddad and a grandmom with their grandkid about three.  He immediately demanded pizza of the guys behind the counter making said pizza.  The whole time we were there, we didn’t see any pizza going to that table, poor kid.  I almost offered them a slice from mine.  I got a plain cheese pizza; Partner/Spouse got a meatlover’s pizza.

Saturday we decided to check out my stamina so we took a journey into the state capital to a used bookstore.  It’s called Cellar Books except it’s on the second floor not in the cellar.  I drove there, but did not drive back.  We’d seen pictures of the place and read info on FB about it.  As soon as we walked into the place I said, “Okay, I like it.”  The girl behind the sales counter grinned and welcomed us.  It is one of those used book stores full of hidden corners, stacks of treasures, even a room for first editions that we didn’t see until we were leaving (good thing.)  I love the smell of old books; I even like the smell of dust on old books.  This store had done an impressive job of categorizing their stock and keeping it in order.  I found some old sci-fi that I hadn’t read in decades.  I found some books that made me chuckle at their titles.  But when I got to the cookbook section, I found my spot.  Way too many to take in, but I rifled through them glancing at prices and being suitably pleased.  The upshot is we walked out with two “new” cookbooks, and about half a dozen other books.  And the find of the day was – dah dah da dah! – Le Cordon Blue Complete Cook Home Collection.  No idea of the date of publication but it’s quite heavy, perfectly weathered, full of color plates, and smells like an old book.  And it was $4.95.   I haven’t even glanced my way through it all yet, much read it.  Sucker must weight ten pounds.  We also picked up an illustrated tome on the cuisine of Russia, Poland, and Yugoslavia.

After the bookstore, we went to an indoor flea market we’ve heard about.  I’m still looking for that elusive flea market from my youth where vendors sold out of their trunks amid rows and rows of gravel lanes and the varied selection was endless.  This was not the place.  We spent about twenty minutes in the place and left, disappointed but not surprised.  In reality, it was a space for people to sell merchandise they’d bought in bulk from other big box stores.  Nothing to see here, folks, keep moving.  So back home, resting for the afternoon on the couch and dinner of Thai Beef Salad which I’ve blogged about before.

Sunday was a clear cold day and still an exercise in testing wellness.  We had a lazy morning with home made biscuits and fried ham.  Yum!  Then, on a whim, we decided to go to an antique mall we’d seen many times in our drives around the state.  It was fairly nearby, as most things in this state are, but I didn’t drive.  And it was a really nice place.  It was set out in a grid style with lots of rows with insets for vendor booths, as well as out of the way nooks, and it was on two floors.  There was a little bit of everything to be had.  Prices varied from laughably high to downright reasonable.  They had book areas set up throughout both floors and they were categorized.  However, several of the independent vendor booths had various small book selections.  And that’s where we found Sunday’s treasure.  We picked up a first American edition of The World Authority Larousse Gastronomique with its original dust jacket (jacket not in good condition.)  Anyone who’s seen Julie and Julia will recognize this book.  This sucker is well over 1000 pages and contains over 8500 recipes along with instruction.  Haven’t done more than flip through this one, but it’s going to keep me occupied once I crack it open.  Unfortunately, after walking through the antiques for a while, I become short of breath so it was time to head home.  We were done anyway, so home it was by a different route that took us through areas we’d never seen before.  We saw some interesting sites, interesting stores, interesting neighborhoods.  It was fun.  Of course, the rest of the day was spent resting and relaxing.  And dinner was carne asada with salad, although Partner/Spouse added tortillas to his.  It was a good weekend full of good times and books.

But it wasn’t done yet.

Monday morning, and a call to the cardiologist and got an appointment.  While we were in the waiting room, we received a text from our apartment complex that we had received a package.  I figured it was a DVD we’d ordered but when I picked it up, it was larger and heavier.  A book, obviously, probably for Partner/Spouse and his work.  However, when we got home and settled, he handed me the box and said, “Here’s a present for you.”  I opened it to find, you guessed it!  A book!  It was a cookbook!  It was a Great British Bake Off Cookbook!  It was the Great British Bake Off Book of Baking!  It has several of my favorite recipes in it.  Looking forward to delving into that one!  And tonight for dinner we’re having baked chicken with stuffing.

So that was my pick-me-up weekend.  Lots of cookbooks, lots of good food, and lots of rest.  It worked, though, and I’m feeling in good spirits.  Always a good thing.

Post #565 Best Little State Ever

March 11, 2018 at 1:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We live in the smallest state in the country.  I’m not kidding, it’s so small you could carpet the whole place for less than $100.  We’ve been here for nearly a year, and we’re still discovering all the fun quirky places to spend our time.  We look at magazines; we ask our friends and neighbors; we watch things pop up on FB; and we drive around just looking at things and getting used to the way roads are set.  In the last few weeks, we’ve explored a few places that we found as we drove from one place to the next.

One place we found I couldn’t tell you the name of, but it’s one of the best antique stores we’ve ever been in.  The stock changes each time we go there.  It’s on multiple levels, and has a maze-like layout so there are always nooks and crannies we haven’t explored.  It has a good mix of the kinds of things we go to antique stores for.  We’ve picked up several things to decorate our apartment.  The one area that we always hit is their “general store” area.  It’s an area blocked out near the front by the check out that holds all kinds of craft stuff and supplies.   It has “old tyme” foodstuffs, nostalgic candy and soda, preserves, sauces, dried veggies, candles, pot pourri, and that kind of thing.  Last time we were there, we bought half a pound of cinnamon infused dried rose hips.  Kept the place smelling good for weeks.  From the outside, it looks like someone’s old garage that’s falling apart.  Inside, it’s a treasure trove.  It suits our personality.

We collect diners.  As we’ve driven around, we’ve passed several out of the way diners you wouldn’t expect could make a living being so isolated but they always seem to be busy.  Parking always is a challenge at these places, but once you find them and get past the hurdle of the parking lot, they always deliver on the food.  One that we went to when we first got here and we’ve never been back we refer to as the Snoopy One.  It was set up in the really old style of diner with the silver front and rail car design.  The food was wonderful, but the seating was very tight.  The restroom was an afterthought and truly the size of an airplane’s.  But we loved it while we were there.

When we’re taking a particular drive, one that we do a lot because we love the scenery, we pass two diners.  One of them caught my attention and fired my imagination simply because of the name.  So, when I got out of the hospital and had recovered my spirit, we took a drive and stopped for lunch at the Tavern on the Hill.  It was a gray rainy day, windy, chilly, and we wondered if the place was open.  It was just after noon, the flag in the parking lot said OPEN.  We went in and startled the only waitress in evidence.  She seemed so surprised that I had to ask, “Are you open for business?”  She said yes and invited us to sit anywhere.  It was a nice rustic feel, wood floors, wood pub style tables, large windows with a view of the field across the road, and the gray drizzle that persisted in falling unabated.  I got a burger and Partner/Spouse got some breakfast dish.  They were both excellent, but since we were truly the only customers in the place, it was easy to make sure our food was good.  We had several opportunities to talk with the young girl, who insisted that they were usually much busier, and she couldn’t understand where everyone was.  But apart from the intriguing name, there really wasn’t anything to make it stand out.  We might try it once more when it’s livelier, but likely not any time soon.

Another one we kept noticing during our drives was a small, self-standing place that was always busy.  If there had been buildings around it, it would have been the stereotypical hole in the wall.  But the name showed a quirky sense of humor so we decided to go one late morning.  It’s called Middle of Nowhere Restaurant.  It’s the only diner/restaurant for a few miles; it’s on an out of the way road; the whole area is hidden by tree so the name seems to fit it.  But it’s always busy and our visit was no different.  We had trouble parking, trouble walking from our car to the door, and trouble getting to our table since it was busy.  But any restaurant that’s busy on a Thursday at 10 has got to have something going for it.  Like any good diner in the middle of nowhere, the other customers were practically a floor show.  And the wait staff and cooks were hilarious.  I don’t even remember what the topic of conversation was, but it kept us giggling the whole time we were there.  I got another burger (I seem to be on a burger kick these days) and Partner/Spouse got another breakfast dish.  It came with home fries which were great!  Everything we had was delicious.  It’s a keeper.  The highlight of the visit, for me, was watching a dad with three sons at a nearby table.  He was conducting business while giving his sons breakfast so had to step away from the table several times.  At one point, the boys were ordering, and the smallest, who looked around 7, asked for 3 Belgian Waffles.  I chuckled to myself since I had read the menu pretty closely.  He’d misread one item, Belgian Waffles with 3 toppings.  The motherly waitress tried to explain to him that Belgian Waffles were fairly large, but he insisted.  His eyes bugged out when he saw his plate.  His dad kept snorting into his coffee.  The kid was still working on them when we left, but he’d already managed to finish more than half.  So cute.

Part of the quirkiness that we so love about this place is how warm and welcoming people are.  We never expected to find that.  Since this small state abounds in small towns, finding local shops is easy.  We found an independent candy store where we blew the budget on candy.  They had everything.  We have a number of local markets we shop at when we want specific items or because we like the butcher or the pies.  We went to a local dairy farm that has an on-site store and got an 8 inch chocolate cream pie made from their own cows’ milk and cream.  It was the BEST!  Everything a chocolate cream pie is supposed to be.

We were in one local independent market the other day.  It has good meats and good produce, and is a good place to pick up forgotten items.  We don’t get baked goods there because they always seem to taste of chemicals, and because there are so many other places where we can get them.  But we wanted some fresh cut meat so there we were.  One of the more fascinating things that happen in these independent markets is they will sell quirky, and locally made products that you won’t find in the larger chain stores.  We found this:

It’s not local, but it’s certainly quirky.  It’s a chocolate bar and it really says Pigs N’ Taters on it.  When you read the small print, it says it has bacon bits and crushed potato chips in it.  We haven’t had the gumption to try it yet, but when we do, I’ll let you know how it goes.  Salt and chocolate are terrific together, but I’m not so sure about bacon, potato chips, and chocolate.

In many of the places we go, we’ll pick up something we’ve never tried before and quickly become addicted to.  I’m currently working through my third jar of sugar-free raspberry preserves that’s locally made.  With the diabetes and all, it’s a good thing it’s sugar-free.

As always,

 

Post #564 Stormy Weather Stormy Health

March 4, 2018 at 2:55 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Well, I spent another week at home.  I actually went to work on Monday for the whole day and felt fine.  Tuesday, I was not “up beat” then started feeling dizzy and feverish.  Went home about noon-ish.  Woke up on Wednesday feeling the same so made an appointment with my doctor.  Saw her on Thursday, and she scheduled lab work for Friday and told me to stay home until Monday.  Thursday afternoon, I wanted to try making bran muffins since I like them and they’re a good diabetes friendly snack and breakfast.

When I was in college, my sister and her husband had a cookbook that was sort of diet/lifestyle/health tutorial.  We used a lot of the recipes from this book.  I wish I still had it because it had a bran muffin recipe that was delicious.  It used whole wheat flour, bran, honey, and other ingredients I don’t remember.  They were light but hearty, and one would fill you up perfectly.  I’ve eaten plenty of good bran muffins since then, some that I’ve made myself.  But don’t ask me what the recipes were, because I just don’t remember.  But, I also knew that there were several good brands of cereal that included recipes for bran muffins so I chose a box at random.  Well, lucky me, after reading the recipe, I had to make a very wet batter with the cereal and eggs and water and let it soak overnight in the fridge.  Yay.  So I got up Friday morning, did the lab work, stopped at the store on the way home for the inevitable items that were forgotten the day before, and headed home.  My idea for the muffins was to overfill the muffin tins to make fewer muffins, but larger ones.  I wanted to make some with blueberries and some without.  Once I got the batter ready, I made six that were plain.  Then, instead of blueberries, I added crushed pecans to the rest of the batter and made two more.  That’s all I had left.

The two with the pecans on top had the crushed pecans in the batter.  I ate one while still warm.  Guys, I do not recommend this recipe.  Instead of getting a nice light hearty muffin tasting of bran and honey, we got a spongy thick heavy muffin that tasted like sweet cereal sludge.  Not the best, so I’ll keep searching because I like muffins.

We started talking about dinner and we thought about Philly Cheesesteak sandwiches.  We had all the stuff except the rolls so I said I’d make some!  I did a quick search and found a good whole wheat recipe from ATK that I could make.  I quickly threw it all together and got it to the first rise.

And the power went out because of this wonderful No’oreast Bomb storm running through my part of the country this weekend.  Using our phones, we went to the website to find out when power was expected to come back on and found it was only going to be out a few hours.  Meh, a shrug, a groan, and a change of plans.  I texted people at work to find out if there was still power in that area.  It was a sporadic outage.  Although they were reporting statewide outages, there were pockets of areas with power.  By four o’clock, the dough had risen and fallen twice and was completely unusable for the recipe I wanted.  We couldn’t actually cook anything, so we decided on an early dinner at a nearby restaurant.  We kept getting updates and the prediction for power returning kept getting pushed further and further out until finally they said Monday afternoon!  We had plenty of things we could eat until then; actually, we had to eat it all or let it spoil.  We weren’t going to starve.  It was getting cold, but we had blankets and a space heater puppy so we weren’t going to freeze.  We were more concerned with keeping our phones and computers charged.

So imagine our complete relief when the power came back on at 11:30 Saturday morning!  We’d gone to our favorite diner for breakfast where they’d invited us to charge all our electronics, but we didn’t do that.

So I tossed the old dough.  Partner/Spouse suggested turning it into sourdough starter, but I didn’t want two gallons of starter hanging around.  I cleaned out and washed out all the bowls and utensils I’d used the day before and started over.  And they turned out wonderful!  That’s the thing about ATK.  If you follow their recipes to the letter, you get reliable and very tasty results.  Since it was a whole wheat recipe already, and I’d added a tablespoon of bran to it, it was healthier than before.  The rolls were cooling on the counter when the power went out.  Again.  And a string of cursing left my mouth and sent the dog running in terror.

Luckily, the power came back on a few minutes later.  So dinner was made, but not Philly Cheesesteaks.  We made beef gravy, shaved beef sautéed in onions, and had that over toasted rolls.  Sort of an open faced beef and gravy sandwich.  So good!

We were binge watching some television show and about 11:30pm, the power went out again.  Screw it, we said.  Let’s just go to bed.

An hour later, blazing lights woke us up.  We’d forgotten to turn anything off.  But we had power, and this time, it stayed on.  So far.  The weather system has passed.  The winds are gone.  Rain stopped yesterday.  Rivers are flooding over their banks; tides are horrendous due to the rains and storm surges; trees are down all over the place.  There are still pockets with no power.  But we’re good, stayed fed, stayed warm, and managed to make healthy food from scratch.

Here’s the recipe for the rolls, if anyone wants to try.  They really are good.

Rustic Dinner Rolls

  • 1 1/2 cups plus one tablespoon water at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant or rapid rise yeast
  • 3 cups plus 1 tablespoon bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole bran (optional)

Whisk the water, honey, and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer making certain no honey remains in bottom of bowl.  Add flours and mix on low speed for three minutes with the dough hook on the lowest setting until a cohesive dough is formed.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temp for 30 minutes.

Remove plastic wrap and sprinkle salt evenly over the top of the dough.  Knead on low speed for 5 minutes scraping dough down if it climbs the dough hook.  Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is smooth and tacky, but not sticky, 1-2 minutes.  Lightly oil a medium bowl and transfer dough to it.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour.

When dough is ready, use a rubber spatula and fold dough onto itself.  Turn the bowl a quarter turn and fold dough onto itself.  Repeat twice more.  Cover and let rest for 30 minutes then repeat folding.  Allow to rest 30 minutes.  Turn dough onto flour surface and sprinkle top of dough with flour.  Using a bench scraper, cut the dough in half.  Flour your hands and shape the dough into two logs about sixteen inches long.  Cut each log in half, then cut the halves in half.  Cut those halves in half resulting in sixteen total pieces of dough roughly the same size.

Spray two 9 inch round cake pans with vegetable spray.  Preheat oven to 500.  With well floured hands, gently roll each piece of dough into a rough round coating all sides with flour from your hands.  Place pieces in cake pan, one in center and seven around the edge, eight pieces per pan.  Sprinkle lightly with flour.  Cover loosely with plastic and allow to rest 30 minutes.

When the oven is heated, and the dough has rested 30 minutes, uncover the pans and spray mist the dough lightly with water.  Bake in oven at 500 for ten minutes then remove.  Set oven to 400.  Tip the rolls onto a rimmed baking sheet, then turn over so tops face up.  Using oven mitts, separate rolls and position them on bake sheet so none touch.  Cover loosely with a towel.  When oven is ready, bake rolls for 10-15 minutes.  Remove and cool for one hour.

These rolls will be crusty and well baked.  I actually used only half the salt and they tasted fine.  They are smaller then I normally make so next time I’m going to experiment with size and shape.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  Let me know if you try these and how they turn out.

The upshot of health issues is that my blood sugar is dropping as it’s supposed to, but my heart issues have ramped up a bit.  I’m scheduled for an appointment with a cardiologist soon who will look at my blood work, the test results from the hospital, and determine the next steps.  But I’m good, and returning to work tomorrow.

As always,

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