Post #685 Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

December 29, 2019 at 11:19 AM | Posted in Easy | Comments Off on Post #685 Feed the Birds, Tuppence a Bag

I had my followup with the surgeon on Friday.  She cleared me to go back to regular activities but with a couple of caveats.  First, there may still be a stone in the common bile duct.  I misunderstood the phone message where I thought she said it was abnormal.  What she meant was there’s an abnormality in the scan which might indicate a stone.  She gave me the signs to watch for if the stone became a problem, and told me what steps would be taken.  Second, she reminded me that I was a very sick puppy for a very long time and my body is still readjusting to being better and to not having all its organs so she cautioned me to regain my strength in stages as opposed to what I want to do.  Partner/Spouse seconded that opinion.  It was corroborated by something on Saturday.

Saturday morning, a coworker of Partner/Spouse’s came by.  We had agreed to assist her in dog training.  She’s training her dog in tracking humans for the local police dept.  With a tracking dog, she can find people who are lost either by nefarious means, or by natural disasters, that kind of thing.  She wanted one of us to wander the neighborhood leaving a scent trail for her dog to follow.  I volunteered for that part.  The path she wanted to follow via Google Earth couldn’t be done because the area was enclosed by a chain link fence.  So after we discussed it for several minutes, we decided to just wander the neighborhood since that would provide the dog with the challenge of other dog scents, other people scents, and traffic scents.  So, I climbed a small embankment where I walk Buddy a lot, planted the marker, left my sweat pants, and wandered the neighborhood for a few minutes.  It was a total of about 700 feet all told, and I ended up hiding in a bunch of trees.

I was totally out of breath by the time I stopped and alerted them I was ready (by text.)

Okay, so I caught my breath pretty quickly, and it was quite steep in two sections of the walk, but I wasn’t running, or even walking fast.  But it did show how much I’m out of shape at the moment.  Which I don’t like.

On the up side, the dog did extremely well, even following a path I laid to try to confuse him.  He found me in just a few minutes and was so happy to see his toy.  We’re going to keep assisting her and suggested a few “wilderness” areas to go to.

So what’s all this got to do with feeding birds?  During the whole adventure, Partner/Spouse noticed that there were a lot of birds hanging around.  He wondered why they hadn’t flown south for the winter.  I didn’t have an answer apart from maybe they forgot or didn’t know the way.  I know climate change has messed up a lot of that kind of thing, but I would have expected the birds to go where the food is.

So, while we were out and about, he picked  up a cute bird feeder.

If you blow the picture up you’ll notice that it’s made entirely from bird seeds, except the decorations.  He hung it on the lilac bush in the front smack dab middle of the porch so we can see the birds visiting from inside.  We talked about feeding the birds all winter and I mentioned suet feeders and peanut butter feeders for squirrels as well.  He did some research and found out another thing we can use to feed the birds and other animals.

Yup, those are apples drying in our dehydrator.  We’re drying them out to a pliable stage and hanging them from the branches of the lilac bush.  Birds and squirrels both like them.

And so do people.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can still dry out fruits and meats in the oven.  The key to drying foods in the oven is air flow.  Well, actually, that’s the key to dehydrating foods in anything.  If your oven has the convection fan, all you need to do is set it at it’s lowest temp setting, cut up the food into thin, uniform sizes, place them on a tray, and shut the oven door but block it open with a wooden spoon laid across one corner.  If your oven doesn’t have the fan, do the same as above including the wooden spoon, but put a wire rack across the tray so air flows underneath the foods.  Remember, the thinner the foods the better.  Drying takes a long time since it’s so low temp, and the point is to remove moisture from the foods, not cook it.

My mom and I used to make home made beef jerky in the oven all the time.  One time, I saw her prepping some beef for jerky just before I was leaving for a two day hike.  When I got home, I asked where the jerky was.  In a very disgusted voice, she explained that my sister-in-law ate every bit of it. It must have been a good batch.  When dehydrating meats, it’s important to remove all the visible fat.  Fats will turn rancid pretty quickly and don’t dehydrate well.  They will also cause spoilage and mold growth pretty quickly, too.  When I was heavily into hiking and backpacking, I used to dehydrate about three quarters of the food I took with me.

These apples will take about 8 hours to dehydrate to the point where we’re going to put them outside.  If I was making apples chips for us, I’d let them go even longer.  Also, you’ll note that the skins are still on them.  That’s a personal preference.  Some people remove the skins so they dehydrate faster.  I like the dried skins and the thin layer beneath the skin of fruits and vegetables is where 90% of the nutrients are.

When I first moved to the DC area, my apartment had a balcony and it jutted out against a tree.  We had a lot of squirrels for visitors.  I put out unsalted nuts for them, but my favorite (and probably theirs) was when I put out seeds mixed in peanut butter.  I put a big dollop on a cracker and they’d eat those like an appetizer.  It was so funny to watch their little tongues jut out trying to get the peanut butter off the roof of their mouths.

So, we’ve decided we’re committed to keeping the birds fed all winter, as well as ourselves.  Their diet is going to be a lot fattier than ours, but I imagine we’ll both weather the cold okay.

So, I hope your holidays went well.  We’re almost to the other side and still alive.  Share any special moments you like and share the post if you like.

As always,

Post #684 Christmas Tree Cake

December 24, 2019 at 5:10 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Anyone who’s watched The Great British Bake Off with any regularity already know about this cake.  It’s a Scandinavian treat made in concentric rings and stacked.  Special pans are needed, and, while there is a traditional dough for this, nearly any stiff batter will work.  It’s call Kransekake and it’s pronounced kran-ze-cock-uh.

Traditionally, the cake is made from a stiff almond batter that needs to be rolled and cut into lengths to fit the pans.  Once they’re baked and cooled, they are iced and stacked, then decorated.  Mostly they are made for weddings and for Christmas.  If for a wedding, the married couple pick up the top ring and the number of rings that come with it determine the number of children they’re going to have.  I don’t know of any omens for the Christmas cake, so if you do and want to share, please do so.

This is Paul Hollywood’s Kransekake, and one of the Christmas specials where he and Mary Berry explain how to make many of the challenges and showstoppers features this particular cake.  He iced it with piped icing in red and white then stacked it.  Once it was done, he sprinkled it with edible sparkle and put a fondant bow on top.  It strikes me that this is a cake that must be eaten by a crowd.

The cake also shines as a wedding cake.  It can be decorated any way the party wants, but here’s an example:

It also lends itself well to other types of celebrations.  Here’s a New Years cake:

And here’s one that looks like it’s for a Spring celebration.

Most of the time, the pans are sold in sets of six so the cakes can be pretty tall, 18 rings.

But you don’t have to make that many.  I’ve seen this cake made on television many times and the batter varies with everyone who makes it.  Here’s the stiff dough made from almonds.

So, it seems like it’s time to make a new holiday cake.  I didn’t have time this year to do much in that area, but by next year, I’ll be posting pics!

This year, we celebrate several different things.  on the 21st/22nd we celebrate Yule, and we tend to do plant only meals.  Salads, right?  Not always.  This year was festival soup.

Then we celebrate Christmas Eve, and this year we’re doing game hens with some stuffing and broiled asparagus.  We’re also starting the Icelandic tradition of Jolabokaflod.  Literally it means a flood of books.  Each person is gifted with a book on Christmas Eve and spends the rest of the day/evening reading.  We bought several cuz we read fast.

Then, of course, Christmas!  This year, we’re having baked glazed ham with roasted root veggies.  Partner/Spouse is making a nut gallette, and I’m making cherry hand pies.

After that is Partner/Spouse’s birthday!  Two days after Christmas, we’re going to go see Cats! and then have a late lunch or early dinner at some restaurant where I can get something fat free.

Finally, the round things out, we celebrate the New Year with sauerkraut and pork.  My favorite way to do this is dry fry a couple of pork chops, then drain and rinse the sauerkraut and heat it in the same pan as the pork chops.  Sometimes I put some chopped apples in it.  This year, I’ll probably add some nuts, too.

No wonder we get so heavy this time of year.

So, share any traditions your family has.  I’m always happy to hear about those.  One of the books I got for Jolabokaflod is a cookbook from the Foxfire book series.  Anyone remember those?  It’s mission is to record and save the Appalachian tradition from the oral into the written.  I used to read these books like crazy when I was a teenager.  The cookbook compiles a ton of recipes from the books while expanding on the historic nature of them.  Can’t wait to get started.  You guys will likely be hearing about it.  A lot.

As always feel free to share the post far and wide, and

Post #683 Top Five Favorite Salads

December 15, 2019 at 1:02 PM | Posted in Basics, Main, Vegetable | 6 Comments

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything about a salad.  It’s one of my favorite things to eat and I’ll get into that in a minute, but I thought I’d let you know how I’m feeling after the operation.  In a word, weird.  I’ve got four “hole” in my abdomen that are healing up.  These holes are where the instruments went in and the diseased gall bladder came out.  Should have only been three but years ago I had an umbilical hernia repaired so the fourth hole was to make sure that nothing happened to that.  Since the gall bladder is gone, I’m having to rediscover the things I can eat and tolerate versus those I should avoid.  So far, it’s all been good, no real troubles.  I haven’t had any cheese yet.  I’ve had real butter once and did okay.  I had some pre-processed foods and didn’t act up, but I was still pretty doped up too.  I’ve also had a glass of wine that was so much fun!  But it’s time to get serious about this and figure it out.  Partner/Spouse has been Tony the Tiger Grrreat! throughout all this.  So, once the full recuperation is completed we’ll both be paying close attention to what goes in and what goes out.

Luckily, salads can be as no-fats as you need the to be.

Whenever I say “salad” there are a few memories that come rushing to the front of my brain.  As a kid, salad was always eaten with anything that was cooked on the outdoor grill.  Didn’t matter if it was burgers, hotdogs, steak, chicken, or anything else.  If it was cooked outdoors, there was a salad.  And it was always the same salad.  Iceberg lettuce torn to shreds, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and onion of some kind.  There might be other things in there, but those four were the basic.  If they weren’t there, it wasn’t salad and wasn’t put on the table.  The dressing was typically Italian, French, and/or Thousand Island.  We weren’t too adventurous or inquisitive in those days.  In my teen years, we branched out more.

When I moved to go to college, I was living with my sister and her husband and one of the weekend go-to dinners was what she called The Big Salad.  They’ve always eaten fairly healthy, but in those days it was a religion for them.  I dubbed it the Garbage Salad because they put things in it that I would have tossed, but I quickly grew to enjoy the salad.  The base was a whole red cabbage sliced thinly.  They did that so it would last a couple of days without wilting.  They also put grated cheese in it, something I’d never done before but made absolute sense when I thought about it.  They put in every fresh vegetable they could find in their garden and from the produce section of the store.  Tomatoes were always in there, the fresher the better.  And they put bacon-flavored soy bits in it.  I hated those things.  And they put firm tofu chunks in it.  And something called vegetable protein bits.  And if we’d planned it right, seed sprouts, which were actually kind of good.  The only dressing was lemon juice from fresh squeezed lemons.  I became addicted to these salads.  For years, the only dressing I’d have on salad was fresh lemon or lime.  I’d never had a salad as a meal before this and it’s still a staple for me now.

When I moved to DC, the two guys I shared the apartment with nominated me to be the cook, which was fine.  They said they liked salad with their meals, so I kept putting salad on the table, which they ignored.  After a couple of weeks, I stopped.  There was no comments made either way, until after several months they started complaining about the meals.  I asked them again what they’d like, and they again asked for salads.  I explained they hadn’t eaten a single mouthful of salad I’d made and they said, “You put stuff in it I don’t like.”  When we finally pared it down to the what would be eaten, it was shredded lettuce.  When I put out a bowl of shredded lettuce, it disappeared.  Go figure.  But that’s what they’d eat, so it made an appearance a couple of times a week.

When I was traveling for the State Dept, I was in Northern Ireland for a couple of weeks by myself.  When I was with a team, we usually would find a restaurant for meals, but when I was alone, I’d find something cheap, easy, and cheerful.  There was a convenience store on the walk back to the hotel that had a nice sandwich counter at the back.  I ordered a sandwich and they asked if I wanted salad?  I said, yes, absolutely, whereupon they put a pile of veggies on top of my sandwich.  I mentally shrugged and accepted it, went back to the hotel, scraped my salad into a bowl and ate it separately alongside my sandwich, which had just enough veggies on it to be interesting.  I did that every night I was there, partly because the shop owner kept me a copy of the USA Today paper every day.  She was sweet.

So, now, when I eat salad, it’s either as a side, or as a meal.  We usually have it with the grilled flesh of some animal on top of it.  We’ve become quite attached to the salad kits because they’re the perfect size for the two of us with no leftovers.  They’re also pretty versatile.  In recent years, we’ve steered clear of any kit that has Romaine lettuce, indeed, Romaine lettuce of any kind, but that’s only re-opened our eyes to all the other fun salad greens out there.

If you like a nice wilted spinach salad, instead of making a hot bacon vinaigrette, try heating a half cup of your favorite dressing, whatever it is.  Use that to wilt the spinach, then top with whatever will complement the dressing.  We’ve used Catalina, blueberries, walnuts, and gouda to create a different salad with spinach that tasted great.

We’ve also started making our own croutons.  My younger brother, when we were in our early twenties, went with his welding crew to our state capitol to work on a job.  He was gone a week and was telling us about his adventure.  They ate at McDs for the most part to save money, but on their last night decided to treat themselves to a nice dinner at Denny’s.  Yeah, I know.  He said, “They put dried up stale bread crumbs all over my salad.”  I laughed and explained what they were, and that they were supposed to be there.  “I don’t care what you call ’em,” he said. “I made them take it back and take them off.”  He eats croutons these days because I showed him how to make them properly.  So easy.  Heat a couple of crushed cloves of garlic in oil until they start to sizzle and remove them.  Cut some bread into half inch squares.  When the oil is shimmering and just starting to smoke, add the bread and stir them around till they brown.  Take them out of the oil and drain them, then add to the salad.  He eats them now like popcorn.

We also make taco salad with the leftovers when we make tacos for dinner.  When you look at it, tacos are designed for leftover taco salad.  I used to think that when I was a kid, but wasn’t allowed to try it out.

So, what are your favorite salads?  Do you prefer fruit salads or vegetable?  Combination?  Let us all know.

as always,


Post #682 Health Update

December 13, 2019 at 10:17 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

All went well and I’m home recuperating.  Meds are fun!  The gall bladder was certainly in an advanced disease state and should have come out a long while ago if we’d known about it.  So, health should be improving by leaps and bounds from here on out.  I’m still tired and resting so I’ll be posting something in line with the blog on Sunday.  Not sure what just yet.

Take care, and as always,


Post #681 The Life of a Beef Roast

December 11, 2019 at 2:24 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Well, tomorrow is Surgery Day.  I’m scheduled for noon surgery, and I’ll be out of it the rest of the day.  I’ll try to post something tomorrow to let everyone know I’m okay.  I’ll definitely post on the weekend.  My gall bladder has been steadily pumping out toxins into my system.  Once the antibiotics wore off, it became inflamed again and I’m back to fevers, weakness, and dizziness.  The wet cold weather doesn’t help any, either.  I’ve been on a fat free diet.  Luckily, that doesn’t mean flavor free anymore.  But it does mean we have to be very creative in our eating.  Cant eat at restaurants right now.  Unless I get a salad with no dressing.  I’ve tried fat free dressings in the past and they don’t taste good to me.  So it’s a squirt of lemon or vinegar and some herbs to dress it up.

Toast is what I miss most, oddly enough.  I’m not eating it dry, but without butter, well, it’s just stale bread.  What I’ve been doing is spreading a very light coating of cherry preserves or raspberry preserves on the toast, and that works pretty good.  But I don’t always want something that sweet.

Breakfast has been a fresh apple cut into spears, and sometimes a boiled egg.  I shouldn’t eat the yolk, but I do.  Other times, breakfast is a regular sandwich with lean meat.  And what is a lean meat?  Roast chicken, white meat only; roast turkey, white meat only; pork with no visible fat; beef with no visible fat and no marbling; cold water fish, meaning that it lives in the northern parts of the oceans or the extreme southern parts of the oceans.  I’m not starving or deprived; I’ve just never had to work at eating like this before.

The other meals are easier.  We’ve had to eliminate oils and butter, but since we don’t do dairy very much getting rid of milk etc wasn’t a problem.  Getting rid of cheese has been an issue.  I love cheese.  A Lot!

So what happens if I eat fat right now?  When fat hits the stomach in a “normal” person that triggers the gall bladder to spit out some bile which travels to the stomach and helps the small intestine digest the fats.  What happens to me is that the gall bladder spits out some bile into the bile duct.  One of two things happens.  One, because of the stones or sludge built up in my malfunctioning gall bladder, the bile never reaches the duct to travel to the stomach which causes the gall bladder to become inflamed and painful and eventually, it becomes infected.  Or, Two, the bile backs up and suddenly pushes past the blockage and dumps tons of bile into the stomach which causes pain.  Lots of it.  Depending on what’s happening the pain is either located in my stomach or in an area just under my right rib cage where the gall bladder is located.  Neither is preferable.

A couple of weeks ago I was craving a pizza like crazy.  Since nothing was hurting anywhere I hoped I was safe.  We ordered pizza and I kept mine simple, a small cheese pizza.  I wasn’t safe and boy did I learn my lesson.

Once the fun little organ is gone from my body, I have to be careful what I eat just like now.  The fat restriction is lifted, but since the bile is no longer there to help the small intestine, there are certain eliminatory factors that come into play that can make life miserable.  Think Exlax on steroids.  Trouble is it’s different for everybody.  I’ve just got to “experiment” to see what I can handle.  For instance, I may not be able to eat a regular cheese pizza, but I may be able to eat a cheese pizza with half the cheese on it.  I should be able to eat tacos, but I may not be able to handle the peppers.  The lady I used to work with had the same operation a while ago, and she can’t eat peppers at all.  Most spicy foods cause her problems.  I hope that doesn’t happen to me.  I love chili.  Three alarm at least.  So, I’m supposed to keep up the fat restriction and introduce one fat at a time to see how I handle it.  I think the first one is going to be butter and the second one is going to be cheese.  After that is olive oil.  I know olive oil is good for you, but right now, it’s a fat so it’s the enemy.

One of the worst parts of this has been no chocolate.  All through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, no chocolate.  Turns out, dark chocolate is okay, so it hasn’t been as bad as it could be.  I find one piece of Dove dark chocolate without any additions satisfies my chocolate craving pretty well.

So, tomorrow begins the journey.  Despite that this is happening to me, and the pain and long-range impacts it’s had, I still find it fascinating learning how food and nutrients work on the body.


Last week Partner/Spouse did some grocery shopping and got a very nice roast of beef.  It was the end of a chuck roast and was tied forming a nice round roast.  I put it in the freezer to cook later.  On Saturday, he wanted me to get out of the house and be active for a bit.  (Since I’ve been home I don’t get out much except with the dog.)  He wanted to have the roast but I forgot to take it out of the freezer.  So when we got home, I put it in its frozen state in the roaster oven (a stand-alone oven device I’ll talk about in another post.)  I seasoned the roast really well and put it in at a low temp to avoid over-cooking and drying it out.  However, as the day progressed, our energy levels fell flat and neither of us felt much like cooking anything requiring a lot of effort.  So I turned the roast off and fixed pasta and jarred marinara sauce.  I doctored the sauce a little so it tasted fine.  On Sunday, he wanted to have the roast so he put it back in the roaster.  By 6:30, it wasn’t anywhere close to being done.  And I goofed, cuz we had the pasta on Sunday.  Saturday we just foraged.  So, Monday, I took the roast out of the fridge and put it in the roaster (again) and by the time Partner/Spouse got home it was ready.  I even used out electric knife to make the cuts easier.

Partner/Spouse was talking about some good beef soup so yesterday I took the left over roast and cut it up into small-ish chunks which gave me the chance to get rid of a ton of the internal fat marbling.  The dog is loving it.  I put that in the crock pot for several hours until it was falling apart tender then added a pound of thinly sliced onions and a big handful of baby red skin potatoes.  That cooked until the onions were soft and the potatoes were done.  I made a few frozen biscuits and we had beef onion soup and biscuits.

Tonight, I’m taking the leftover soup (there’s a lot) and I’m heating it up and putting in some tomato paste and some lentils.  In a separate pot I’m making some wide fat noodles (haven’t decided it I’m making those from scratch or not but right now I’m thinking not.  Energy levels going down.) and we’re having the soup over noodles.

Anything leftover is going to be frozen for another day.  And that’s the life of our latest roast.

The holiday is fast approaching.  We’re looking forward to it.  It looks like we’re having a white Christmas.  Probably a white Solstice, too.  Maybe even a white New Year’s Eve.  Given everything going on, we’re planning a low key holiday, just the two of us and the dog.  Music, movies, and books.  We’re so lazy sometimes.

What are your plans for the holidays?  Any family traditions you want to share?

As always,

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