Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Drywall repairs

You know, working on airplanes really doesn't have much in the way of transferable skills to drywall repair.

Except the important bits: learning how to prep for a project, and clean up as you go along. Gracious, but drywall is messy!

Anyway, I still had the best two fallbacks: youtube videos, and calling my Dad for a sanity check. There was also a quick discussion with OldNFO & LawDog, who agreed with Dad - instead of screwing a backer board behind the repair, the wiser thing to do was to enlarge the hole until I found a stud, and screw the drywall patch into the stud. I still find it a little strange that the repair process starts with "Make a much bigger hole", but it makes sense!

Patches are now cut out, put in, taped, mudded, and awaiting on the mud to cure. It's rather rough, but I am reminded that I"m starting at the very bottom of the drywall repair learning curve, after many years without doing any at all. My first welds, rivets, and brazing were really ugly, too. (In fact, they were less functional than this drywall patch. Drywall definitely has an easier learning curve than riveting.)

And there's still sanding and a coat of paint to clean it all up and make it pretty. If it still looks rough but functional, then when I get better at it, I can do it again!

Monday, October 15, 2018

You've been all over, and it's been all over you

My darling husband has chronicled the adventures of the last few weeks. Me, I was along for the ride. Not that I didn't enjoy it, but the tightness in my chest starts about Amarillo, and the altitude sickness kicks in early in the mountains. Along the way, I caught something, so what I took for just the terrible exhaustion of altitude sickness and difficulty breathing... has lingered for days after we came back down.

Doctor seen, shot in the butt received. Sigh. I am not a fan of shots in the butt. (Yes, I consoled myself with tea and chocolate. It fell under the doc's orders to push fluids!)

And the blood draw for lab panels had the gauze pad secured with bright pink vet wrap. I may have spent my morning being distracted by vet wrap on the paw and shaking it while giving the world a look of bewildered hurt and injured dignity... before remembering that unlike that cat who has to do that for days, I have opposable thumbs and can just remove the stuff.

It's the little things you forget when it hurts to breathe...

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Stuffed Mushrooms

When we picked up groceries at Sam's club (always a dangerous exercise when there's only two people in the household), "mushrooms" turned into a pound of brown mushrooms that were roughly twice the size of standard button mushrooms, but about half-sized for portabellas. They're the perfect size for making stuffed mushrooms: no piping filling or ultra-fine mincing necessary! I shall have to do this again, because you get all the flavour without having to do the finicky detail work.

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb brown mushrooms, large (okay, two were missing, so if you have a full pound, adjust the rest a little higher)
1/2 small onion, diced small
2 Tbsp butter (I actually used duck fat. Use bacon grease if you have it, and adjust the salt)
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp mesquite smoked salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup almond meal
6 oz cream cheese (I used 5, because missing mushrooms.)

Remove the stems from the mushrooms, and dice them fine. Then dice the onion fine. Saute in butter over medium heat with the smoked salt and paprika, until the water is nearly cooked out. Add the garlic and almond meal, and saute until garlic lightly browned & almond meal toasted. Remove to a mixing bowl. If you want mixing to be easier, warm the cream cheese a little first, otherwise just mix until well blended.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If you have a silicone baking sheet, use it; otherwise you may need to grease your pan or aluminum foil to keep the mushrooms from sticking. Fill the mushrooms to at least level with the cap, higher if you have extra.

Bake for 25 minutes (these ones were big enough I baked for 30 minutes, and they were delicious. Button mushrooms you'd probably only bake for 20 minutes.)

Let cool at least 5 minutes so you don't burn your mouth. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

couldn't duck out of that one....

Last year sometime (I think) I bought a duck. Then I stuck it in the deep freezer, because I didn't know how to cook a duck, and figured I'd learn later now that I had a duck. (It was on sale.) Well, upon the recent defrosting of the deep freezer, I found said duck, and decided I better get to that one of these days before I had ossified freezer burn in the shape of a duck. So today I did, armed with a copy of Hank Shaw's Duck Duck Goose.

The slow-roasted duck recipe proved that weightlifting really pays off, as it involves roasting said duck in a cast iron pan in a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes, then removing said cast iron pan which is now 300F and full of sloshing duck fat as well as a duck, upping the temperature to 500F and putting said pan back in for 10 minutes to crisp the skin. (And then removing said heavy cast iron pan, even more sloshing duck fat that's spattering, all now 500 degrees F, and moving it to an empty cold burner on the stove.) All the upper body strength I have built so exhaustingly, one barbell rep at a time, turned this from what would have been a highly dangerous and painful enterprise into merely a mildly awkward and very careful one.

I suspect, though, that my cooking times were low. Re-reading the instructions, I was to let the duck come to room temperature, and I instead had the duck at fridge temperature. As a result, the texture was medium-rare, and my back brain was going "You're eating undercooked poultry? Hello, samonella!"

Peter, on the other hand, thought it was excellent. I now know from other friends that this is a thing; Brits like duck cooked medium to medium rare, where Americans think all poultry must be well done. (Hilarious tales of dinner parties gone awry were traded.) So I gave up after one leg, but Peter well and truly enjoyed the other leg and both badly carved breasts.

Look, ducks have much bigger wings than chickens, and gigantic wings and weird-shaped breast muscles compared to turkeys. I was trying to carve it by following the illustrations in the books. Much dangerous flailing with knife and carving fork happened, and my husband very kindly did not laugh at me.

It was definitely a learning curve. I did not master duck on the first try, and am dubious about tackling it again at the regular price of duck meat. If, on the other hand, Peter goes off hunting and comes home with a brace of them?

...then I'll pay the game processor to convert them into plucked and pieced out, and try out more recipes in the book!

In the meantime, at least, I have duck stock rendering in the slow cooker, and half a mug of liquid gold (duck fat is culinary gold, for converting recipes to awesome.)

I also have the undivided attention of two cats, who want to know when they're getting their fair share. (never!)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Scents and sensibility and soap

My husband and I agree completely on keeping a well-stocked pantry. (He calls it "survival prep." I roll my eyes, and call it a well stocked pantry, but it comes to much the same thing.) He believes in well-stocked stores of ammo, to the point I shake my head, smile, and let it go. Similarly, he shakes his head, smiles, and lets go just how many bars of soap I accumulate.

Yes, I have a large store of handmade soap. It's handy stuff, soap, stores well, and you're going to use it all up eventually. (Not unlike ammo, really.) But it accumulates almost accidentally. You see, my skin and lungs don't agree with a lot of stuff off the shelf, so I buy from small batch soapmakers - as the people who make it on a "Sell at the farmer's market / RenFaire / coffee shop" level use their own product, and are invested in making something that's gentle and beautiful.

Peter has long ago learned that I walk a zig-zag path among stalls - to the other side of the path and quickly avoiding the reek of incense that emanates from one tent, steering wide of the scented candles at another... and when I find I'm passing a soap-maker's booth that doesn't make my sinuses hate me, I go "Oooh!" and hook a quick turn in, hand on wallet.

This means I come back from vacation with a handful of bars of soap, instead of the usual tourist trinkets... and when I've used up a bar, I can pull out the stockpile and sort by scent, whim, and memory, like pulling out vacation photos. Here's the bar from the tiny town's founder's fest in rural Tennessee, here's a bar from vacation with friends in Colorado. (That one's really good for dry skin.) This one comes from the middle of a very long road trip, when we stopped at a tiny town in Texas far off the main highways, and found they had a wonderful cafe with awesome mochas sharing space with a Christian bookstore, in a building that had been standing (and falling down) since the early-1800's...

I just unwrapped a bar of lemongrass for the shower from the Davidson County Fair in Tennessee, where we also got stone-ground cornmeal from a watermill that'd been moved to the fairgrounds. (There was a generator powering the pump that moved water from the pond below the water wheel back up to the mill race. Awesome, ingenious, and gloriously good cornmeal.) And Peter learned what demolition derbies were, even if he wasn't sure why his wife was whooping and hollering along with the rest of the crowd. He also learned a lot more about chicken breeds, and why I believe revenge is best served as steaming hot soup, with a side of garlic bread.

Good times. Good soap, too.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Tuscan Bean Soup

A friend was told by the docs he was low in potassium, and needed to be on a heart-healthy diet that includes no salt, no fat, and a lot of carbs. Not only has said diet been proven to be harmful to a lot of people, but my brain hurt, and my mouth exploded. "So, you're not getting enough potassium. Magnesium, Sodium, and Potassium are what we call 'electrolytes', because it's a fancy name for 'salts'... and they're putting you on a no-salt diet? WTF, Chuck?"

So I promptly ignored the doctor's diet, and made him a nice tasty meal with lots of potassium, and no bananas. Due to scheduling issues, the soup was a little late to the table, so the appetizers (log of goat cheese rolled in chopped pistachios and drizzled with sourwood honey, and a dip made of spinach, chopped water chestnuts, ranch dressing mix and sour cream as an alternate for crackers) and the dessert of cubed watermelon and cantaloupe hit the table first, and people enjoyed themselves while I cooked up the main course.

Tuscan Bean Soup

6 strips bacon, diced (55 mg potassium per slice. Bacon is health food!)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 cups mushrooms (223 mg potassium per cup)
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
 1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 sprig rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup white wine
3 cans white beans, drained (580 mg potassium per cup)
4 cups chicken broth (I used homemade turkey broth, 'cause I had it on hand)
1 cup diced chicken
 lite salt & pepper to taste (lite salt has potassium chloride to bulk and not be sodium chloride, for the same salty taste.)

Stick white wine in fridge to chill (freezer, if you didn't plan ahead.) Chop up bacon, toss in stockpot/dutch oven. While it's cooking and rendering out all its delicious grease, chop up the onion, celery, and mushrooms. Add them to the delicious bacon fat, saute.

When they're fairly well sauteed, toss in the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, bay leaf, and rosemary.Saute about 30 seconds, until garlic is turning deep golden to a little brown at the edges. While that's happening, open the wine bottle.

Deglaze the pan by pouring in 1/2 cup of white wine and scrubbing the bottom with a spatula, until all the tasty brown bits come off. Pour a little more wine for the cook, serve the rest to your guests.

Add the chicken broth, the beans, the chicken, and enough water to thin it out to your preference. Simmer for 10 minutes, lite salt and pepper to taste. Warn guests about the rosemary & bay leaf, serve to happy stomachs.

And make extremely rude gesture in the direction of the doctors who told him he has to eat no salt but will need to take salt in pill form, and that I can't make tasty food for people I love. Go on. You know you want to!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Italian Sausage & Bean Soup

I am getting closer every day to defrosting the deep freezer. But as I cook through chicken, pork, and beef cuts, I'm reminded my husband really likes sausage. We have quite a few pounds of the stuff. Lacking a grill to make him go do meat & fire things, I decided to try a recipe that called for uncasing the sausage and turning it into soup.

Full disclosure: I doubled this recipe, due to massive amounts of sausage, and only then realized how much soup that'd make. So I ended up with two soup pots simmering away... and after feeding 5 people for dinner, along with cheesy garlic low-carb bread, I only had enough left for three tupperware leftovers. It's a lot of soup, but if you're feeding hungry men, you'll need side dishes!

Original Here:

Italian Sausage & Bean Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, thawed
1/2 cup red wine
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 onion chopped
1 Tbsp better than bullion, chicken (or 1 can broth)
1/2 package frozen okra (or yellow squash. Or both!)
1/2 package frozen chopped spinach
1 can northern white beans, drained
1 can flame-roasted diced tomatoes
1Tsp Italian seasoning*
Water, if needed, until it's appropriately soup consistency.
Parmesan for garnish (The parmesan-pecorino mix is awesome, stuff in a green can works fine, and as this is a garnish, can be served without.)

*I used Tuscany Bread Dipping Seasoning from Amarillo Grape & Olive. You're looking for black pepper, red pepper, rosemary, basil, oregano, and parsley at the least - if your own Italian seasoning is lacking one of those, add to taste. Careful with the salt, given the canned stuff & broth.

Step 1: uncase the sausage. I just squeezed the sausage out of the casing onto a paper plate, one little soup-ball-sized lump of meat at a time. Heat some olive oil in a large soup pot, and fry up the sausage. (I had to do it in batches.) While it's frying, chop the onion.

Step 2: Remove sausage, deglaze pan with wine. Add onion, saute until transparent. Add garlic, saute 30 seconds more until it's smelling awesome.

Step 3: Add sausage back in, along with everything else. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, let happily blend flavours to itself on simmer for at least 15 minutes. (I did it for an hour, and it was delicious.)

Step 4: taste soup, adjust seasonings, serve with Parmesan on the table to garnish.