Post #606 “Aw, Mom! Meatloaf Again?”

October 28, 2018 at 2:02 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

My mom made meatloaf a lot when we were young.  Now, I know why, but back then whenever I saw meatloaf being prepped, it just meant we were going to have hamburger stuff that tasted only of onion, mashed potatoes with butter, and some canned veggie, probably corn.

Now let me explain why this was a problem.  First, although I loved hamburgers, at that time in my life I loathed onions.  Cooked or uncooked, the flavor of onions was terrible to me and I would pick them out or eat around them.  Except in meatloaf where mom put in so many onions it was impossible to extricate them.  So I was forced to eat that terrible nasty tasting stuff.  Second, potatoes were abhorrent to me except in two forms: potato chips, and french fries.  For some reason, though, mashed potatoes were particularly terrible to me.  I think it was because there was just nothing to chew.  I’d put them in my mouth and immediately want to hurl.  But in my mom’s cooking, meatloaf always came with mashed potatoes.  Third, the potatoes I hated were always topped with butter.  And I didn’t like butter.  Pure and simple.  Finicky eater as a kid, not so much as an adult.  But butter was not something I wanted to eat ever.  Finally, a can of veggies of some kind.  Usually corn.  Many times, creamed corn.  Vegetables I loved.  When they were fresh.  Or frozen.  From a can, not so much.  I tolerated them because I understood their potential.

So, I was usually looking at a plate filled with ingredients that I didn’t like.  So I would end up choking them down, or going hungry.  It was an even bet as to which way it was going to go.  Then I grew up and my palate changed and suddenly those things that used to be terrible weren’t so terrible anymore.

I made meatloaf a couple of nights ago.  With mashed potatoes.  And fresh veggies on the side.  And I chuckled when I thought about how much I’d hated this stuff before.  However, this was not my mom’s meatloaf.  And it hadn’t been for decades.

I supposed there are as many meatloaf recipes as there are people making meatloaf.  It’s absolutely one of those dishes that are “made to taste.”  Jennifer Paterson, one of The Two Fat Ladies those inimitable British chefs I love so much, once said, “Salt and pepper to your own taste.  No one knows what your taste is but you, so don’t be shy about it.”  Meatloaf is like that.

So I had a big bunch of hamburger that I needed to use and originally thought about spaghetti.  It’s easy and filling and makes enough to freeze for leftovers.  It’s a budget stretcher type of meal.  But I was a little bored with it.  We have it every couple of weeks.  Not that I wouldn’t have enjoyed the heck out of it.  But I decided I wanted something different.  Besides, Partner/Spouse was fighting a cold and his stomach was a little delicate and the acid from the tomato sauce likely wouldn’t be good for him.

Wouldn’t you know it?  I had all the ingredients for meatloaf!  That’s usually a surprise to me.  Not so much that I have the ingredients, but usually I plan for meatloaf to make sure the ingredients are all there.  But, I wasn’t a hundred percent certain since it has been a while since I made it.  So I looked on the box of onion soup mix.  Not there.

So I went online.  After searching through a couple thousand pages (okay not really, just had to go to the second page) of results, I found what I was looking for.  But it took me a half hour because I was reading so many other recipes.  Like I said, everyone has a different way of doing it.

The basic recipe is a pound of hamburger mixed with a cup of filler of some kind, an egg, a half cup of water, and some seasonings.  It’s shaped into a loaf, either free form or in a pan, and baked at 350 until it’s done.  It’s sliced and served with the standard veggie and starch to make a well balanced meal.

Back in the 50s 60s time frame, someone added dry onion soup mix to give it zest.

At some point, someone else put a layer of ketchup on top to form a glaze.  I’ve topped that glaze with sesame seeds for an added nutty flavor.

The filler became stuffing mix of any kind.

The topping transmogrified into mashed potatoes to give it a Shepherd’s Pie twist.

In college, I substituted the bread filling for cooked rice.  I love rice, so this was a no brainer and it was so good.

Then I changed it up and added shredded potato, or shredded carrot, then both.  At one time there was more shredded veggies than hamburger and it became a vegetable loaf.  But it was good.  A couple of times I’ve added a can of chopped tomatoes and turned it into a wonderful juicy loaf that tasted great.

But it always followed that same basic formula.  Then my mom shared something she’d read about putting a layer of meatloaf, then a layer of cooked potato, than a layer of meatloaf.  I tried that and it was good, but don’t use mashed potatoes unless they’re very stiff and not creamy.

Once, I put a thick layer of Tater Tots in the center.  The neat about that was they sopped up a bunch of the meatloaf grease with all the flavors and though they got a little mushy, they tasted wonderful.

Through watching food shows on television, I learned the technique of mixing the types of ground meats to get more flavor.  Seasoned pork, turkey, chicken, beef, veal, rabbit, I’ve seen them all used.  I’ve only ever mixed ground pork and beef, but the flavor was good.  You just have to be aware that the different meats will have different fat content so you may end up with more grease than you’re used to.

So, the other night, I had about two and a half pounds of hamburger.  I put in two eggs, one packet of dried onion soup mix, a tablespoon of onion powder, a tablespoon of garlic powder, a half cup of water, and for the filler, I put in half a pan of leftover cornbread.  After I mixed it all together, I decided there was enough filler and added some crushed Ritz crackers.  I had too much for a standard loaf pan so I put it in an 8x8x2 inch glass baking dish.  I cooked it at 350 for about an hour and twenty minutes to make sure it was cooked through.  When I pulled it out, I drained the fats and greases from the pan and set it aside while I made the potatoes and veggies.

It was good.  The cornbread gave it a hit of sweetness I’d never had before.  The Ritz crackers also added a buttery flavor.  All of it was good.  But I should have added salt and pepper.  It needed that extra hit but I was hesitant since there was a ton of salt in the soup mix.  Next time I’ll know.

We both ate a good chunk, and Partner/Spouse took some for lunch, but I ended up freezing a little over half of it.  In retrospect, I should have divided the mixture into two loaf pans, cooked them both, then frozen one and kept the other for sandwiches, etc.

So what ways do you mess with meat loaf to make it more palatable for your family?  I’ve heard of barbecue sauce, dill pickle juice, and jalapeno peppers being used.  Tell us your favorite meatloaf dish.

And as always,

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Post #605 It’s Called Peanut Butter

October 21, 2018 at 3:56 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

There’s a love-hate relationship with peanut butter.  You either love it or you hate it.  I’ve read article headlines that seem to claim the ability to like peanut butter is written in your DNA.  I’m not certain about that, but I know that I both like peanut butter and despise peanut butter.  How can that be?, you ask.  Well, I’ll tell you.

Like most people, I grew up eating PBJs.  My mom was never too worried about school work as long as we passed each grade.  She thought our time was better spent playing in the fresh air and eating peanut butter sandwiches.  I still eat peanut butter sandwiches.  The only way I like my PBJ now is two slices of bread that match when they close (my little brother laughs heartily every time he sees this), only smooth peanut butter spread not too thickly and not too thinly edge to edge, and ice cold grape jam spread thinly edge to edge.  And don’t bother to cut those puppies, and leave those crusts on.  That’s the only way I will eat peanut butter.

Oh!  And I like these things:

But that’s likely mostly to do with the chocolate.

So, don’t hand me a cracker with peanut butter on it.  Don’t try to tempt me with a warm peanut butter cookie.  Throw that spoonful of peanut butter you’re trying to entice me to eat to the dogs.  It just won’t work.  I don’t like peanuts much either.

I like most nuts, but there are two I won’t touch unless forced to.  One is the peanut, the other is the almond.  I once got into a conversation with a flight attendant on a trip where we discusses the curiosities of the nuts people leave behind.  Apparently, more people don’t eat their almonds than I realized.  It seems to be a universally enjoyed nut.  And in the 70s, you couldn’t get a jar of mixed nuts that wasn’t mostly peanuts due to their low cost.

I will eat crushed peanuts in Asian foods like Pad Thai.  And I’ll eat almonds when I can’t get away with spitting them out.  It’s not the flavors I mind; it’s the fact they exist.  It’s weird, I know, and I have no rational explanation.  I just don’t like them.

So, what’s all this got to do with peanut butter?  Since I seem to be rambling.  Well, I ran across that old ad a few days ago, and it sent me on the path of reminiscing about a Christmas in upstate New York, very near to where we’re at now.

At that time, I was in second grade.  Everybody wanted this.  My latent cooking skills were just starting to emerge.  Remember, this is about the time my dad started to teach me how to make the family’s popcorn using that suicidal electric contraption that I still can’t believe was ever sold legally.  Easy Bake Ovens were all the rage and I wanted one of those, too, but it was a girl’s toy so I never got one.

A Mr. Peanut Peanut Butter Maker was something everyone could enjoy.  So the three of us begged and pleaded and it magically appeared under our tree that year.  We were so excited.

The commercial made it look so easy.  You set the contraption up, poured some peanuts in a hopper, turned away at the handle, and peanut butter appeared, after some time, coming out the other side of his head.  What we learned was that the stuff that came out the other side of his head only appeared after a long, laborious amount of time, and was pretty grainy.  We also learned that if we put the results through the process again, it got a little smoother, but it would never reach the true creamy smooth stage we got in jar.

And there was only enough peanut butter to make one small sandwich.  So to make it fair, we spread it on crackers and each had a couple.  We pronounced it good, and went to the kitchen to make real PBJs cuz it was lunchtime and we were hungry.  That was the only time we ever used it because it was a bitch to clean so I don’t think we ever did.  You can guess what it looked like the next time we looked at it.

Now that I’m older (way older, but that’s enough about that)(Sheesh, more than half a century since that Christmas!) I got to wondering about making peanut butter at home.  There are stores you can go to where you can make your own nut butters out of any nuts they sell.  I’ve been to craft festivals and farmer’s markets where you can get almond butter, walnut butter, peanut butter, pecan butter, sesame butter (tahini), sunflower seed butter, ad infinitum and any blend you want made as you watch.  I’ve never tried them, but people I know who have eaten them say they’re good.  But for a good home version, what do you do?

Turns out, it’s not so hard.  It can be made with one simple ingredient, but can also be made with up to four.

The first ingredient is peanuts.  Let’s talk about those.  There are many varieties of peanuts and I’m not going to go into that now.  But the primary thing about the peanut when being used in peanut butter is they must not be raw.  Have you ever eaten a raw peanut?  It’s pretty good.  It has a naturally sweet flavor to it, and doesn’t taste overwhelmingly like peanuts.  However, don’t use raw peanuts to make peanut butter.  The result is . . . well, kind of gross.  Use roasted peanuts, or boiled.  Roasting tastes better, but it’s up to you.  That’s if you’re starting with raw peanuts.  Mostly you won’t be.  So use peanuts that have already been cooked, whether it’s roasting or boiling.  The skins on the peanuts need to be taken off completely.  If you’re using roasted or boiled peanuts, go the extra step and get them skinless, too.

The second ingredient is salt.  This is entirely up to you.  Most commercial brands use a little salt simply because it tastes good.  You make that call.  But be careful.  Once you put salt in, you cannot take it out.  Salt can be added at any point during the process.  You can even use roasted and salted peanuts.

The third ingredient is oil.  Now this is totally optional except Alton Brown suggests using it, and nearly all the commercial brands use it.  Mostly it’s peanut oil, but it can be other types.  It’s used as an emulsifier to make the peanut butter smoother and creamier, and to stay together better.  But, you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to.  You decide based on the finished product.

The final ingredient is sugar.  Odd, isn’t it?  We put salt in for flavor, but we don’t use sugar for that, although if you use too much, you’ll certainly know it.  The commercial brands use more or less of sugar and all for the same reason.  When you make peanut butter, it tends to be kind of liquid-y, and sugar helps bind it together.  Some brands use a sugar syrup, but that’s not a consideration for us since the amount you’d use is so small as to be almost negligible.

So!  There’s the ingredients.  I already knew all those from my Mr. Peanut from decades ago.  Now the process.

Before I started researching it, I assume the first peanut butter was made by pounding the peanuts with a rock, or a mortar and pestle.  A reasonable assumption based on how flour was first produced, and how seeds and grains were first processed.  And there is some evidence that a form of peanut butter was made by the ancient Aztecs a bazillion years ago through a process of boiling and pounding.  However, peanut butter as we know it wasn’t made until the mid-1800s, far passed the “pounding with a rock” stage.  Interesting fact, peanut butter wasn’t created by George Washington Carver as most people assume due to his experiments and articles about the peanut.  It was first made by Marcellus Edson in Canada.  And he milled it, meaning he used a grind stone, of sorts, to mill the peanuts into a paste.

So, since pounding wasn’t going to be involved, and simply breaking down the peanuts by machine was the way to go, my nimble brain immediately latched onto the food processor.  Bingo!  According to all the recipes that are reputable, a food processor is the perfect machine to make peanut butter.  If you don’t have one, you can use a strong blender.  So here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups roasted peanuts, salted or not, skins OFF
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt, optional
  • 1-2 tablespoons peanut oil, optional
  • 1-3 tablespoon sugar, optional

Place the peanuts in the bowl of the food processor with the processing blade intact.  Process steadily for two minutes.  Unplug the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Plug the machine in and process for 1-1 1/2 minutes.  Unplug the machine, and taste the product.  If using, add salt, sugar, and oil by halves to control flavor.  Finish processing correct taste has been reached for one more minute.  Unplug machine, scrape peanut butter into a clean jar with a tight fitting lid.  Store in fridge for up to three months.  Considered rancid when it emits a sour smell.  NOTE:  If using a blender, be certain to scrape unprocessed peanuts from the bottom of the blender.

Roughly crushed peanuts can be stirred into the finished product to achieve a “crunch” texture.

So!  Home made butter, home made peanut butter.  Wonder what I’m going to “home made” next?

Post #604 Mock Up A Que Sauce

October 18, 2018 at 11:15 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Way back in the misty years of time, while I was a young adult still living with my parents, my younger brother came over and asked if anyone had any cash on them.  This was in the days before debit cards, ATMs, and the like, and even credit cards were “not the norm” in our town.  Heck, the big thing going then were check guarantee cards, and it took a lot of work to get one of those suckers.  So, if you had no cash on you, you just didn’t have any money to spend immediately.  He had no cash, and oddly, neither did I or my parents.

Dad asked, “What did you need it for?”  If the need was great enough, he was going to write a check, which in those days was the alternative to cash.

He said, “We’re going to barbecue some chicken and need some barbecue sauce.  And some potatoes.”

I chuckled, “Some chicken too?”

He grinned, “Well, now that you mention it.”

Mom and I went to the kitchen.  She grabbed some chicken and some potatoes and a couple of other things for him, but she couldn’t find any barbecue sauce.

“Don’t worry,” I said.  “I’ll throw some together.”

I know my brother’s tastes, or I did then.  This was over 40 years ago.  And I knew what I liked.  So I looked at what we had.

First, I didn’t want to cook this at all.  He wanted it now so they could start their dinner.  So I needed something that was already a sauce.  Well, tomato sauce was the obvious, but it would need to be cooked.  Oh, ketchup!  It has a robust tomato flavor, and a sweetness that would hold up well with some tangy elements.  It would help cling to the chicken while on the grill and caramelize nicely.  So I grabbed a big bowl and dumped a couple of cups of ketchup into it.

Ketchup by itself would not do, though.  It needed some smoky earthy flavors.  I put a couple of drops of Liquid Smoke (remember that stuff?) and some Worcestershire sauce.  Then for added flavor I put in some garlic and onion powder.

I also wanted some kick and some tanginess.  Heck, we lived in the desert southwest, so kick was easy.  I diced a jalapeno and threw it in, with the seeds.  For tanginess, I thought about vinegar, but I didn’t want to dilute it, so I put in some prepared grainy brown mustard.  With the addition of the peppers, the sauce got chunky instead of staying smooth, so I decided to put it in the blender.

So, after pouring the whole thing in, on a whim, I added several cloves of garlic, a slice of onion, a spoonful of brown sugar, and a drizzle of honey.  Then I put it on puree and let it go to town.  This blender was the workhorse of blenders that my mom had owned since the day she got married.  I defy a glacier to stand up to those blades.  In a few minutes, the sauce was ready and had a nice reddish brown color.

I called my brother out to the kitchen and held a spoon out to him.  “Taste.  Let me know if it needs anything.”

He shoved the spoon in his mouth and swallowed.  His eyebrows went up to his hairline.  “That’s great!  How’d you make that?”

I shrugged.  “It’s a gift.  It doesn’t need anything?”

He shook his head.  “It’s perfect.”

I poured about half into a jar and closed the lid tight.  “Enjoy!  Let me know how everyone likes it.”

They loved it and I was forced to actually write down the “recipe” for it.  Years later, my niece was after me for the “recipe.”  I was forced to tell her that it was just a mash up that I’d thrown together of flavors I knew we all liked.  I re-created  what I remembered, and she’s used it ever since.

So, I thawed out the ribs we got at the farm over the weekend and I wanted to put a dry rub on them to cook into them.  I wimped out and used a prepared rub.  I rubbed the stuff over the ribs and put them in the pan.  I sprinkled more over them, then drizzled olive oil on them.

The combination of the dry rub, the olive oil, and the natural juices from the meat created a wonderful sauce in the bottom of the pan that tasted like a really good barbecue sauce.

The ribs themselves were amazing!  You may recall that this farm was all organic, no hormones, and humane slaughter.  The ribs tasted like it.  So much flavor you just don’t get from the large meat packaging plants.  So tonight I’m braising the chicken we got from them in a roasted salsa verde.  Can’t wait.

Let me know about your favorite mock ups.

Post #603 What a Weekend!

October 14, 2018 at 5:19 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Okay, so it’s Sunday afternoon, sort of late, getting on towards wine time.  And again, it was a busy weekend, lots got done, and I budgeted time for the blog which is now.  So, wine to left, next to a small bowl of popcorn, and here we go.  Such a relaxing time!

You may recall when I posted at the middle of the week that I said we were going to a craft fair on Saturday.  We made that the central activity of the day, but we also had a ton of other things to do.  Not the least of which was to visit our illustrious downtown area for pizza for dinner.

So we got up “late for us” on Saturday morning, 6:10am.  I know, I say that to other people and they look like I’m crazy, but that’s actually a full hour later for me, and two hours for Partner/Spouse.  Buddy, of course, always needs to be nudged awake, but once he gets going, he’s all about the day.  So, Partner/Spouse took the first shower, while I got Buddy outside and fed.  And, of course, since we had plans, it was cold and rainy.  Not a downpour, what I call a “lazy rain” like it’s too lazy to do anything but fall.  Not much wind, either.  But the temps never got higher than 45 or so.

So the first task was a multitask, stopping at a local box store for some long sleeve thermal shirts, some shelving units, and some odds and ends.  Then looking for a butcher we’d seen in our many drives.  We wanted to start early enough to get everything done so we could be on the road to the craft fair.  Plus we wanted to stop at the grocery story and at a book store to find a book a I want/need.  So we went to the box store, loaded up the car, and took off for the butcher.  Said butcher didn’t exist.  We pulled into the shopping area where the sign was, drove around looking for the shop, and it was nowhere we could see.  We checked our sources and everything looked correct, but no shop.  So, we went on our way.  Went to the grocery store and got the few items we wanted and several more that we didn’t need, and got the one thing we were out of.

We even stopped at another butcher whose shop we found exactly where it was supposed to be.  Except it didn’t open for another hour.  Sigh.

So we went home and unloaded and took care of the dog and put things away and played with the dog and got ready for the next task for the day and cuddled with the dog.

Then we got in the car with the GPS programmed to the address of a little town called Lee and a public farm called Coppal House Farm.  They are known throughout New England for many things, but there biggest draw is their corn maze.  Every year, they have a huge corn maze, 24 acres strong, and every year it’s a different design.

They also have craft vendors, food vendors, etc. They have a working farm and barn where kids can interact with the animals, and inside the barn they also have their own foods and crafts.  And we found our butcher!  But more in a moment.

It’s a grass parking lot, so I took some pics for the changing colors:

And this is what my childhood memories are all about.  Those colors on the trees becoming more and more vibrant as the temps cool, the year progresses, and the trees start to settle in for winter.  It’s still early in the year, but very soon, the colors will be spectacular.

As we walked into the vendor area, I nudged Partner/Spouse and directed his attention to an ice cream stand.  Keep in mind the temps were still in the mid to high 40s and it was a drizzly day.

“That’s going to be a hard sell,” I said.  Except it wasn’t   People were standing there waiting for ice cream.  We didn’t get any, but I thought for next year on a hot summer day, that might not be bad.  Especially when there were customers on a cold Autumn day with rain.  Had to be good.

We wandered through the vendor area.  I was a little disappointed by the turnout, but realizing it was October and rainy and cold (did I mention that yet?) I mentally shrugged and let it go.  There was some good stuff there.  Don’t be fooled by the picture.  It was taken during the summer.

First we went into the barn.  We weren’t interested in the corn maze, but that wonderful barn smell hit me and I was a happy camper.  Then we both gravitated to the one area that we were happy to see.  They sold their own home butchered meats.  It was frozen of course, but we were happy to see it.  The lady doing the selling told us a little bit about it.  All the meats were farm raised, all grass fed, no hormones added, and humanely killed.  We got a pound of pork breakfast sausage, a pound of pork garlic sausage, a pound of pork country style ribs, and four plump chicken thighs.  I wasn’t interested in anything else in the barn, but he was, so I took the bag of meat back to the car while he looked around some more.  When I returned, we went backwards through the vendors and picked up a hand-quilted runner for our coffee table, some gloves, donated to the boy scouts for some popcorn, and got some metal works fall decorations.  And at some point, Partner/Spouse bought me a jar of raspberry preserves.  We spent about 45 minutes all told and it was a good time.  In the outdoors.

So, we drove home through some of the most beautiful countryside and ended up at the bookstore.  They did not have the book I wanted/needed even though I’d seen it there a couple of weeks ago.  Shoulda got it then, but didn’t so Amazon got another 20 of our dollars.  But we decided to get pizza for late lunch and stopped at another place on our “have to go to” list.

Ceasario’s Pizza is walking distance from the apartment but since we were going by anyway . . .   Now parking on that main street is problematic at best of times, and on Saturday afternoon, nonexistent, unless you get lucky.  We didn’t get lucky, but we only had to park about two blocks up a side street.

I got a medium pepperoni pizza with mushrooms, and he got a medium pepperoni pizza with onions and sausage.  The onions never appeared, but that was okay.  And we got desserts, standard stuff.  The drive home was quick and drooly.  The pizza smelled so good, and it lived up to its reputation.  But they were so large, three pieces filled me up.

After we ate, I looked out the window and the sun had come out

So this morning, we did the few remaining errands, got home by 11, worked for the next few hours rearranging furniture etc.  Then took showers to get the sweat off.

One of these weekends, we’ll actually stay home and relax but I think that will happen once the first snow falls.

So we’re liking our new home.  We’ve got some friends up north we need to connect with.  One of the pair is a friend of mine from high school.  We also have some social connects we need to follow up on through our various interests.  I’ve met a couple of writers online in the area who are looking forward to meeting me and vice versa.  I’ve got a job interview on Monday I’m looking forward to.  So all is well.  Tonight Partner/Spouse is using the chicken to make some kind of asian dish.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.  Take care.

And as always,

Post #602 Saying So Long to a Good Friend

October 10, 2018 at 6:56 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Well, I can truly say that I’ve been so busy getting to know the new home place that I quite literally forgot to post on Saturday, and then again on Sunday.  Mea Culpa and my apologies.  We did a lot over the weekend and you’ll get to hear about it, and it looks as if the upcoming weekend my be just as busy.  But it wasn’t until yesterday that I had to say goodbye to a good friend.

Now before anyone worries too much, both Partner/Spouse and Buddy the dog are fine.  Here’s what happened.

Partner/Spouse wanted me to make goodies for his staff at the hospital.  On Monday, there was a chili cook off.  He wanted me to make a crock potable delicious one that wasn’t too spicy for the New Englander’s tastes and was easily transportable.  So I made a riff on one I normally make with chicken.

But first that required a trip to the grocery store for the things we didn’t have, which meant just about everything but the crock pot.  So, we bought two bottles of salsa verde, a one and a half pound pork roast, a can of chopped jalapeno peppers, a 2 pound bag of shredded cheese, and a bag of fresh corn tortillas.  Usually when I make a “white” chili (one that doesn’t involve tomatoes to turn it red), I add a can of black beans that I rinse, but I was told there were specific requests for no beans.

So I cut all the fat off the pork and cut it into quarter inch cubes.  I wanted it falling apart tender fairly quickly.  I put that in a bowl and added a half cup of the salsa verde and tossed and set aside for an hour.  When it was time, I mixed the two bottles of salsa verde (it uses a tomatillo base so it very citrus-y and delicious; many times there is also cilantro in it so watch for that if you don’t like it) in a bowl with the jalapenos and stirred to combine.  Then I put the cheese in a large bowl so it was easy to disperse, and pulled the tortillas out of their wrapper.  Mis en place was done!

I put a quarter cup of salsa in the bottom of the crock pot and spread it out so it covered the entire bottom.  Then I measured a tortilla to see how I would have to alter them to fit the crock pot.  Happy accident, they were a perfect fit!  So I placed one tortilla on top of the salsa.  Another quarter cup of salsa spread over the tortilla, a goodly portion of the meat, then that topped with cheese, and another tortilla.  That’s one layer.  You just keep repeating layers until the crock pot is full.  However, and this is important, DO NOT fill the crock pot to the very top.  Leave about a half inch or it will spill over.  Trust me.

One you’re at the top, place the final tortilla and spread the salsa, but add quite a bit of cheese to keep the top soft and easy to break through.  Set the crock pot heat for High and leave it for five hours.  Then set it for low, and let it go for about three hours.  It’s done and falling apart tender by that point.  Just dig a large serving spoon into it, scoop into a bowl, and eat.

It came in second and I had to text the recipe, such as it is, to him to share.  The winner actually smoke a brisket outdoors over a wood fire and used that as the base for his chili.  I think that’s cheating, but oh well.

So on Tuesday, I was supposed to make two loaves of fresh bread for his staff just as a present.  I was supposed to slice it for them.  Not knowing how many people I was cooking for, I sliced it kind of thin, but not too thin, and then cut the slices in half top to bottom.  I used my standard bread recipe and all went well with the bread.  But here’s where I had to say goodbye to a friend.

Remember this guy?

We bought him while in Rhode Island after losing so much of our stuff.  We lucked out and found him on sale for way less than $100.  He was smaller than our old unit, but was a true workhorse.  He chugged out cookies, bread, cakes, meringues, custards, even butter (!) without complaint and was reliable in his results.  He had suction cup feet, but on the granite work surfaces that we have and had, he tended to slide around a bit.  I knew this.

So on Tuesday, I was making bread.  I was also multitasking.  So I set the bread up to knead in the mixer for 8 minutes (I was going to hand knead for the last two minutes) and stepped away to take care of something else.  About two minutes later, I heard a funny squeal, a crash, and the sound of bread kneading in a mixer stopped.  I ran to the kitchen and there was the mixer on it’s side on the floor.  But gallantly, he had saved the bread dough!

I picked him up and inspected him.  Nothing was broken except a small plastic dohickey that locked the bowl in place.  However, it snapped into place and I reset the bowl, and turned the puppy on.  A loud squeal greeted me.  Apparently, something in the motor was out of whack and since the mixer had only cost $69, likely wasn’t worth repairing.  I set it to the side, finished off the bread by hand, then texted Partner/Spouse about the demise of the stand mixer.  Poor thing.

I made bread again today, for us, and used my hand mixer.  It did fine, and we had the bread tonight with dinner which was slow roasted beef and gravy over the bread with veggies on the side.  But I am sad the stand mixer is gone.  Wonder what the new one will look like.  I hope it’s red, too.

UPDATE:  I’ve had a few questions about making butter that I guess I didn’t address in that post so here we go.  Start to finish, it was about 45 minutes.  That’s taking the cream out of the fridge, to cleaning everything up and putting the butter in the fridge.  The actually butter making process itself was about 35 minutes.  It created real live butter, but it wasn’t greasy like you’d expect.  If you’ve ever had Kerrygold or some other Irish butter, it tasted a lot like that.  It was creamy, light, smooth and delicious.  I still have some left.  I’ve mostly used it for toast and English muffins.

UPDATE:  This weekend we’re going to a couple of places to see the sights.  One is a craft fair and the other is a local cliff.  This isn’t called The Granite State for nothing.  I’ll take tons of pictures and share them in an upcoming post.  This weekend, I’ll be posting about some of the restaurants we’ve been to since we’ve been here.

And, as always,

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