Monday, December 23, 2019

Braised lamb in dutch oven with couscous

Today's dinner was brought to us by Limerick farms - a by-Texas-standards-local sheep farm, who sold us a leg of lamb at the farmer's market some months ago. Peter's quite taken with their meat, because they actually mean lamb, not mutton, when they label it lamb.

Unfortunately, life got busy and said meat languished in the deep freezer. Today, I pulled it out, and decided I had the time, so we were going to have a nice dinner. It wasn't fully defrosted when I started: next time, following the same directions, it might end up falling off the bone tender. As it was, it was delicious and made for a very happy husband.

For a 4 lb leg of lamb, start at least 4 hours ahead of time.

1 defrosted 4 lb leg of lamb, bone-in

salt - 2 tsp?
pepper - 2 tsp?
2 Tbsp high-smoke-point oil/lard
1 bottle cab sauv or other dry red wine (less two glasses for the cook)
6 cloves garlic, minced or chopped
1 Tbsp oregano
1 Tbsp rosemary
1 Tbsp  thyme
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 can tomato paste
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 onions, quartered

Thaw lamb. Pat dry, salt and pepper both sides.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Pour first glass for cook.
Heat dutch oven on med-high, with oil. Sear lamb 3 minutes each side, until dark brown.
Add the rest of the ingredients, save for the second glass of wine for the cook.Stir to make sure the bottom is deglazed, and let it come up to a boil.
Turn off stove, put lid on the dutch oven, and stick in stove.
3-4 hours later, turn off oven and make couscous.

1 onion, diced
1 Tbsp ghee or butter
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp chicken bullion powder
1 cup couscous
1 cup + a splash of boiling water

Saute diced onion & tumeric in ghee, until bright yellow and translucent. Add couscous and bullion powder, stir, and add water. Turn off burner, let sit five minutes. This is a good time to grab a pack of frozen steamable veg and turn it into the green side.

When the frozen veg is ready, the couscous will be too. Pull the dutch oven out of the oven, check the lamb, and serve lamb with the sauce around it on the couscous and veg.  

Excellent meal; we'll definitely be tracking them down for more lamb, and making this again!

Monday, October 28, 2019

Aircraft, Past and Present

So Darling Husband and I went to an airshow on the nearby air force base last weekend. Walking up to the gates was an experience, because a Mig was doing aerobatics. My husband's face when he saw a MIG-17 doing a low-level pass... his entire nervous system looked like it was desperately crying out for a missile launcher, just let me at 'em! Some reflexes die hard, eh?

After that, while my wonderful man sat and enjoyed the airshow, I went off to ogle all the static display airplanes. (They were fairly spread out, and he didn't feel inclined to all that walking.)

Sitting alone amongst the air force planes was a single Army Chinook, with a recruiting tent right next to it, sticking out like a sore thumb. And rocking it. Those guys were having a good time. (The other oddball was a C-47 in the corner, for the WWII paratrooper jump demonstration team.)

I walked up the load ramp of the Chinook, and had to stop and stare in amazement. It was clean. No, it was...*clean.* I don't think you understand the amount of cleanliness... the wiring bundles didn't have any grime between the wires, clean. Every hydraulic hose and line was clean, with no stains from any leaks, clean. And all the hydraulic lines were bent at the perfectly correct indexed angle, and everything was labeled. None of the nuts had traveled from their marked point. No field-expedient repairs. No evidence that there ever had been any...

It was... birds like this don't exist. This is the demo you use when making a textbook photo, that could not possibly survive the first trip out the factory door, clean.

In the back of the bird, a young army sort was hanging between the stretcher on one side, cheerfully enjoining the civvies on his bird to "ask me anything!" He caught me ogling his wiring bundles, and gave me a nod. I nodded back, and continued inspecting his junctions in sheer amazement. This was a bird in use - it wasn't factory new - and it was Just. Too. Pretty.

So as I walked past him, I felt I ought to say something, even if he looked like the youngest JROTC kid to pull public relations instead of getting to see the air show. On a couple air force birds just minutes earlier, I'd tried asking questions only to get a startled, "I don't know, ma'am, I'm still in training." So rather than ask what in the wide green world was going on with this bird, I went for complement instead.

So I say, "Your wiring is immaculate. The bundles, your hydraulics... your bird is beautiful. I haven't seen one this just... this lovely." He gets this grin, and the chest puffs out a little more, the ramrod straight spine gets a little straighter, and he says, "Thank you, ma'am! Let me know if you have *any* questions!" And by the gleam in his eye, this is not, as I thought, some poor training kid. I have made the old fart's mistake of underestimating this young man in both age and ability.

...Turns out he's the crew chief. Oops. (When did they start looking so young?) And thus ten minutes were pleasantly passed in discussing load configurations and capabilities, and confirming that his was indeed a working bird, and he was by G-d going to make sure it was the best working bird in the entire US Army, every single time, and everything was perfect. Even if it was a slingload of live goats in a crate.


After that, I visited the C-47 as well. And when I climbed up the narrow ladder and got inside, I saw bare primered walls decorated with photos and sharpie scrawls. Closer inspection proved that they restored the plane to as close to original paratrooper configuration as possible. (Although this airframe actually spent her war years flying the hump, and then in the Israeli Air Force, only reimported back in the 80's. If that bird could talk!)

And then, after restoration, every WWII paratrooper who managed to make it on board has been handed a sharpie and invited to leave his name, dates of service, and jumps. And some of those - the number of places they jumped were astounding. On some, they'd even managed to dig up old wartime photos, and stuck them up beside the signature. That bird... she was something special. Something more than she had been, as if her own record wasn't enough.

Yeah, from the young men who jumped out of planes like her over Reims to the young men making sure that the birds will be okay today...  There's a lot of good out there that's easy to overlook. I'm glad we got to see it.

Friday, September 20, 2019

What's healthy feel like?

Last winter, I had a couple-few very bad months, in which I couldn't actually tell how bad my health was getting, because judgement is one of the first things that gets affected when your brain isn't working right.

I could tell that the writing was getting slower, worse, more fitful, and stuttering - and I could tell that I was skating on the event horizon of an emotional black hole, and spending a fair amount of time and energy staying out of that. And then the writing shut down.

And then I couldn't even manage to coherently blurb other people's work.

And then I couldn't even think my way through critiquing and editing other people's blurbs.

Yeah, hypoxia from asthma and general issues with lots of allergens is very like being drunk: have one drink, and you're questioning if you're okay or should wait longer. Meanwhile, the guy who can't get off the couch is the one who thinks they're fine to drive, because when they asked themselves if anything's wrong, the brain just couldn't even answer.

Just as my darling husband is finding out that recovery from injury at sixty-plus is a whole lot slower than when he was 20, I'm finding... recovery from "It's not that bad" is closing in on a year from when the problems became unignorable, and while I keep thinking "I'm good now!", I keep finding the body and brain are slowly getting better and better, and reaching levels of good I didn't know I'd lost.

This makes me more paranoid about getting back in the air, not less - because my lovely old plane is a wonderful dear, sweet and gentle for her kind... which, being as she's 70+ years old, means she's a heck of a handful if you're not on your game and on top of all her quirks and the vagaries of wind and weather.

On the other hand, I did just manage to write my first blurb from scratch in... I don't want to think how long. And the stories are coming back, in fits and starts. And I just got to Amarillo and was able to walk around the fair until the little muscles in my hips yelled at me (I'd squatted 120 pounds the day before. They were irritated with all the walking on asphalt and concrete), without having tightness in my chest and the exhaustion from pushing my lungs to move enough air being the limiting factor.

Here's to life getting better! I'm not sure I'll know when I've reached healthy, but I'll keep trying for it. And I'll be getting back in the air when I get there!

Monday, September 2, 2019

Raspberry and pear trifle

My darling husband volunteered to make a trifle for group dinner, but he was having a day where just standing was a challenge. So I made a trifle. Well, two, really, because it's only a tiny bit more work to make two trifles than one, and plenty of guests.

For the cake:
1 boxed devil food cake mix
1/3 cup oil (I used coconut & light olive)
1 cup water
2 eggs
1 Tbsp cocoa powder

For the custard:
2 Tablespoons Bird's Custard Powder
3 cups milk
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp raspberry jelly
1-2 cups frozen raspberries

For the fruit:
4 cans of sliced pears, drained

For the cream:
1 quart whipping cream
2 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp fine sugar

First, make the cake according to box mix directions. (Although I threw in an extra tablespoon of cocoa powder, because it didn't seem very chocolately to me.) This makes enough for two trifles.

While the cake is baking, mix the custard powder and jelly in a large microwaveable bowl. Add the milk and spices, stir well until no clumps. Microwave for 6 minutes, stopping at least halfway to pull it out and stir it. Cool it down by dumping the frozen raspberries in, and stirring well. Let sit.

When the cake has cooled, cut it into chunks about 1/2" to 1" square. Divide in 4 parts.

Layer the trifle dishes with the cake, drizzle 1/4 of the custard on top, and put one can of pears as a layer. They don't have to be anywhere close to drained dry, just not sopping and soaking the cake.

Put half the cream ingredients in a bowl, whip it up, and spread half on each trifle. Repeat cake, pudding, pears, make a second batch of cream, and put that on top.

Cover and store in fridge until time to be eaten.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Honey Basalmic Cod with Mandarin Oranges

The first time I saw this recipe, I thought "Eww, sickly sweet." The second time, I thought "How do they make that tasty?" And five years or so later, I've tried it, with a few additions, and my husband liked it so much he wants me to make it for group dinner (for 12) instead of just the two of us. If I do that, I'll need to figure out how to scale things up. We'll see.

Honey Basalmic Cod with Mandarin Oranges

4-5 filets of cod, frozen
1 can mandarin oranges
1 orange's worth of juice

1 Tbsp orange marmalade
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp melted butter or very light oil + extra to grease the baking sheet
1-2 Tbsp thick balsamic vinegar

+1 pack steamable butternut squash noodles
+1 pack steamable baby brussels sprouts

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, and line baking sheet with either a silicone baking mat or greased aluminum foil, so cod doesn't stick to it. Place cod on sheet.

If you have an orange, juice it.
In a bowl, mix all ingredients except cod, mandarin sections, and steamables packs, until blended. Spoon over frozen cod. Put in oven and bake for 22-25 minutes.

About 16 minutes out from done, stick butternut noodles pack in microwave. While it's cooking, open mandarin can. Rinse and drain 3 times to get the canned taste out, set aside.
When noodles finished, carefully remove package. Put in brussels sprouts pack and nuke.

Drain butternut noodles, add drained orange sections on top, reseal packet (if able).

When Brussels sprouts are done, plate the noodles & oranges, then open the sprouts and plate them, too. Fish will be done at this point, and you can carefully pull it out of the oven. Put cod chunks on noodles, spoon the sauce in the pan over the noodles.

Serve with a drizzle of balsamic over the Brussels sprouts, and it's ready to table. Serves 2-3

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Research or Writing, pick one...

So it begins: I have a good chunk of outline, a couple characters sketches, some research, and I'm just going to write this small section of the story in order to help figure out the plot. Right? No dstractions, just writing!

...close the browser...

Less than three hundred words later, "1911's come in single stack, right? I'm not crazy?"

*open browser, lose an hour to the siren song of online*

Close browser. Now I'm going to write!

Two paragraphs later "Is there any steel-core pistol caliber ammo?"

..lose ten minutes to searching...

No! I'll just ask the subject matter expert in the house!

"Love? Are there any steel-content bullets out there in pistol calibers? Is it feasible for them to be produced if you're prioritizing defennse rounds against fae?"

Mind you, asking my husband for help has temptations and distractions all its own...

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The difference between supplies and junk

Peter put up a post about thinning stuff down, and got a bit of pushback from his commentors about the drive to own less stuff. They have a valid point - that there are socialists trying to push communist no-private-ownership theory in the name of "saving the planet". What they miss, though, is that just because a red squirrel finds an acorn doesn't mean the acorn is communist... and the idea of acquiring and holding onto less stuff that you don't need goes straight back to Biblical advice. (The emphasis there was to focus on actions and words, thoughts and habits instead of on acquiring riches - completely different philosophy, and much wiser than communism.)

That said, one of the points they challenged Peter was "How does the no-piles-of-stuff goal square with being prepared for disasters?"

And that made me facepalm. There's a very simple, clear, and hard line that separates the two: inventory control.

In order for something to count as emergency (or non-emergency supplies), all parties involved must:

1.) Know that it exists
2.) Know where it is
3.) Be able to access it
4.) Find it in a usable condition.

For example, we have a few jerry cans of ethanol-free gas (No, they're not in the garage. They're in a remote shed.) We both know where they are, where the keys to the lock to access them are, can easily get them out, and they've been treated with stabilizer in order to be usable whether pouring into the lawnmower or into the vehicles. They're also rotated (usually by refilling the lawnmower.) These are extremely useful emergency supplies - well, everyday supplies for the lawnmower, but emergency for the vehicles or generator.

On the other hand, somewhere under a pile of something in the garage is a case of toilet bowl cleaner bottles that's already had a couple taken out. The last time I saw it was months ago, when I spent 4 hours digging through piles and pulling things out that had been stuck into the aisle under "I'll just stick this here" until the entire aisle was filled in. Since then, it's been moved... and so I just drive to the store and buy more toilet bowl cleaner, because it's not worth four hours, a couple bruises, and getting cut open on something to find the case again when I can get to the store and back in 20 minutes.

That case is now junk, useless and worse than worthless. I may know it exists, but I don't know where it is, and I can't get to it. So the money we spent, saying it was cheaper if we bought in bulk, is wasted, and the garage is more cluttered by its existence in there somewhere. It is now an active detriment in my life, filed firmly under "Your useless junk that's forcing us to park the vehicles out in the hailstorms, honey."

That is the difference. The big pantry has a couple shelves that I have to use a stepladder to reach, and am never going to use for everyday stock - because getting out a stepladder is a pain in the rear. Can those of you over 5'5" imagine having to do that every time you wanted to get the black pepper or garlic powder? (Everyone under 5'5" already understand this point. "Honey, I need your tall!" being a common kitchen cry in quite a few households.) So when Peter proposed using those shelves for emergency supplies, I was all in favour - it puts them out of the way, and yet easily inventoried and accessible when needed.

Keep this in mind when dealing with your spouse, your house, and your own supplies. And if you know that you've got stuff "in there somewhere?" Fix that, because trying to find stuff by flashlight when the power's out (and the heat or AC with it) and the wind is ripping shingles off the roof isn't going to get any easier.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

deviled eggs (with bacon grease)

While making this dish, I realized I was down to my last spoonful of bacon grease. I texted this sad state of affairs to a group of friends, so that they might have a chuckle... and less than seven minutes later, there was a knock on the door and Aepilot Jim was standing there with a tub of 5 pounds of bacon grease, so I could refill my jar. I have the best friends!

Deviled eggs (with bacon grease)

16 eggs (It's what my large pot easily holds.)

1/4 to 1/2 cup mayo
1 tsp mustard powder
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard*
1 tsp Tabasco (or more, to taste)
1 Tbsp bacon grease
8 dill pickle slices, minced
1Tbsp pickle juice to thin the mix, if needed
1 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp salt (omit if using pickle juice to thin)

mesquite-smoked salt sprinkled on top
smoked spanish paprika sprinkled on top

Hard-boil your eggs, however makes you happiest, and shell them. Cut the eggs in half and dump all the yolks in a bowl, put eggs on your tray or paper-towel lined paper place, whatever.

Mash yolks until they're finely crumbled. Add everything else, mix well. When the only lumps left are the pickles, spoon into a sandwich bag, cut the tip of a corner off, and squeeze out the filling to fill each half an egg. Sprinkle the mesquite-smoked salt and paprika on top.

I prefer to make a day ahead, so I don't have to worry about it and they're ready to go when people come over for dinner. Also, lets the flavours meld and mingle.

*I actually have been using Fischer's Dusseldorf mustard, but any good spicy brown mustard will do

Thursday, June 13, 2019

mock stuffing with hatch chilies

My darling husband has been known to wonder why Americans call it "stuffing" when it's not stuffed in anything. The statement that it's the recipe for what normally got stuffed inside the bird was dubiously accepted. The last time I made this, though, I was very glad it wasn't inside the bird, because the bird turned out to be still frozen even after 3 days in the fridge! No, I'm not sure how it managed that either.

Fortunately, this can be made ahead of time as a nice big casserole pan, and then just popped in the oven to warm up in that lst half hour after you pull the bird out to let it rest.

Mock Stuffing

Step 1: mock cornbread (make ahead of time)

6 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup diced hatch chiles (flame roasted is even better)
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 cup almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp bacon grease

Mix eggs, cream, and hatch chiles together, and add coconut flour and almond flour. Let sit for a few minutes to properly hydrate. Preheat the oven to 325F and stick a 10.5 to 12 in cast iron skillet in the oven with the bacon grease while it's preheating.

Melt the butter, add it, the baking soda, and salt to the mixing bowl. Stir well. Pull the hot pan out of the oven, pour in batter. Stick back in oven, cook for 25-30 minutes

Step 2: Toast the bread.

After cornbread has cooled (could be a few minutes, could be a couple days later), cut into rough chunks. Put on baking sheets, and toast for 30 minutes at 300F. They should turn dark brown but not burn. Set aside to cool.

Step 3: Make the Stuffing

1 batch toasted mock cornbread
1 large onion (or 2 small)
3 cups chopped celery (more or less)
1 large handful fresh sage leaves (about 1/2 cup, once diced)
1 bunch fresh rosemary (about 2 Tbsp, once leaves were stripped off the stems and diced)
1 large handful fresh thyme leaves (about 1 Tbsp once stripped off stems)
1 large bunch fresh parsley, chopped. (I used dried, about 1/4 cup, because my parsley has bolted)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper (I used bourbon smoked cracked black pepper.)
1/2 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp bacon grease
3 cups chickenstock
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350F

In a skillet (could be same cast iron skillet used for cornbread. Yay for fewer dirty dishes!), heat bacon grease. Toss in black pepper, so it gets all the flavour bloomed and into everything you saute. Once hot, add onion, celery, & salt. Stir until starting to get translucent, then add herbs and garlic. When herbs are wilted and garlic starts to brown, take off heat.

Dump toasted mock cornbread in large casserole dish. Pour the sauteed mix on top, then mix with spatula until roughly evenly distributed.

In a separate bowl, mix 3 cups chicken stock with two eggs. Pour over the stuffing mixture. Cover dish with foil, bake for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

White mulberry pie

I have a white mulberry tree, and its fruit has presented some conundrum. They're not actually white, more a pastel purple - though that mean they don't exactly look like a normal rich blueberry or mulberry pie when baked. Still, I picked a bunch and stuck them in the freezer to try a pie later, and people liked it. Note: don't worry about the little stems, they bake soft. The pie turns out rather like fig newton filling, though, very crunchy with all the little seeds.

White Mulberry pie

1 Premade crust
4 cups mulberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
Juice of 1/2 lemon
dash cinnamon
dash nutmeg
dash allspice
dash cloves
(Spices equal maybe 1/2-3/4 tsp added together)

Preheat oven to 350F
Mix everything but the crust - that goes in the pie tin. Once everything is a goopy thick mixture, use a spatula to get it scraped and splatted into the pie crust, and smoothed to pretty flat and level. Do whatever you like to the edges of your pie crust - some folks like to put a second crust on top and crimp, or lattices, or what have you. I just fold it over to create a rim, because it amuses me.

Bake for 45 minutes, let cool at least 10 minutes. Goes great with bluebell ice cream.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Pour some powdered sugar on me

Because my brain is as fried as a funnel cake.

I'm studying for the AGI - Advanced Ground Instructor - certificate, which qualifies me to teach flying on the ground. (Generally referred to by it's TLA (Three Letter Acronym), because the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, though it used to be the Federal Aviation Agency, and prior to that, the CAB (the Civil Aeronautics Board)  sure loves its TLA's.)

I may have gotten into this on a dare. Not confirming or denying, just mentioning it's a possibility, and wasn't exactly a long-range plan slowly coming to fruition or anything. The first few sections of the study suckered me in. Okay, Aerodynamics & Aircraft rattled my brain cage and shook a lot of dust off some schooling I haven't touched in a long time, and force me to hit the books and start studying up on the actual principles that had become rule-of-thumb or "Ah, I don't fly that, so I don't care."(Look: I know a lot about flying off gravel and sandbars, and very little about turboprops. What we don't use, we forget, and it's a very big aviation world out there, with lots of specialties, too. Aerobatics? Those are things I don't want my airplane to do, not things I am comfortable or familiar with.)

But that was cool; it was a heck of a challenge, but actually pretty interesting to relearn, and learn ways the field has changed since I started flying.

...and today I hit Weight & Balance & Aircraft Performance, and it hit back. Nobody warned me there'd be calculus! Or spaghetti charts! ...maybe it was because I failed to ask. *facepalm*

I'm almost to the end of the first round of question study and review. I can do this. I really can...

After I go rotate the cat, mow the lawn, do some laundry, and whatever else it takes to get the brain to stop making crackling and spluttering noises.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

No-rice stuffed peppers

This recipe kind of grew and grew, because I started intending to use up 6 peppers...then realized I had 5, and so bought another 6-pack to make sure there were enough for seconds, too. On the one hand, I think I should have had a side dish, because the guests devoured the lot... on the other, they didn't appear terribly hungry after a small appetizer of devilled eggs and dessert of pie, so maybe it was fine.
And no, no rice. Not even cauliflower rice, because I wanted meat & veg peppers.

No-rice stuffed peppers

11 bell peppers - I used 5 green and 6 red/yellow/orange (Some folks don't like the taste of green)
3 Tbsp Olive oil or other fat, divided in 3 parts

1 handful sage leaves, diced
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
1 to 2 tsp mesquite-smoked salt
1 to 2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
3 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced (or to taste)

2 pounds hamburger
1 pound hot pork country sausage

2 cans tomato sauce (24 oz cans)
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf

1 cup parmesan, grated or green can

This is a time-intensive recipe. If you choose to make it with lots of pots, it can take less time, but I didn't want to leave a complete mess in the kitchen - so I had to batch things.

First, cut off the tops of the bell peppers, and take out the pith on the ribs. Chop the pepper parts off the tops before tossing the seeds & pith. Dice the saved pepper tops, and put in a pan with 1 Tbsp olive oil to saute until soft. (I actually used bacon grease, because I have it on hand.)

Rub the outside of the pepper bottoms with olive oil, and place upside down on a tray. Put in the oven and broil on low 5 minutes or until the tops are starting to blacken. (This way you don't have to blanch the peppers, and you can smush the pointier bottoms down to be stable when filling with meat. Also, nice flavour.) Be careful when pulling the tray out, because there may be juice now sloshing in the tray. Don't get burned! If you're filling right after, helps to take tongs and turn the peppers on their side or flip them over so the steam can escape and they cool off.

Preheat your oven to 375 F

Back to the chopping board - chop up the herbs (or remove from their stems, then chop up), and the onions. Dump the peppers into a mixing bowl, add more oil to the pan, and add the spices first so they can bloom. Then add the herbs, and the onions. Saute until soft.

Dump about 3/4 of the mixture into the mixing bowl, reserving a quarter of the onion mix in the pan. Add in the cayenne and bay leaf, then the tomato sauce & balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine, reduce heat to simmer. Keep an ear on the sauce - when it starts to bubble, make sure to stir it so it doesn't splatter. We're not trying to reduce it, just mingle the flavour.

Add meat to mixing bowl. If your onion mixture is still quite hot, you may want to put on a pair of food safe latex gloves or similar, so you don't get any burns when mixing everything together by hand. Or, you could own a kitchenaid with that nice fancy paddle... or just use a spatula and a whole lot more arm muscle. Whatever makes you happy!

Arrange your now-cooled peppers in a casserole dish or two. Probably two; 11 is a lot of peppers. Fill with meat mixture. Turn off your sauce, and ladle over the top of each pepper. If any extra, just pour it over so it runs down into the base of the casserole dish / roasting pan / whatever you pressed into service. Sprinkle cheese over tops of peppers.

Cover with aluminium foil, bake covered for 45 minutes. Then uncover, and bake for another 20. The first traps all the juices to create a water bath and prevent the peppers from burning while cooking the dish, and the second reduces the juices in pan to sauce, as well as browning the tops and the cheese for tastiness.

Let cool 5 minutes, and serve with sauce... Or let your guests at them straight away, with the warning that it will be quite hot.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The pet-erpillars.

Diane said: "pics or it didn't happen." So, here's a pic of 'em, inside and safe from a nasty squall line.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

When do they become pets?

Last year, I got a dill plant - and fairly well lost it to swallowtail caterpillars. Apparently, they like fennel and dill. So this year, I was going to get bronze fennel and dill, and transplant caterpillars from one to the other.

Then life intervened, and by the time I got to the greenhouse, all the fennel was long gone. So I got dill... and a packet of bronze fennel seeds were ordered.

It wasn't fast enough; the fennel is just putting out its first pair of true leaves, and the dill plant already has three caterpillars, hatched and hiding from the birds while munching down the herb. On the other hand, I'm not using a lot of dill, so I shrugged and ignored their existence.

Yesterday, there were only two left (probably bird), and I looked at the truly nasty weather incoming, thought for a minute, and then brought the pot inside, so they'd be safe. And then took pictures and showed them off to a friend. ((They're getting big. And are pretty!) what point are the darned things pets?

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Learned Responses

I'm going to take a test tomorrow. It's not going to affect my job, or my life; it's something I'm doing for additional learning and just because I want to. (A bet with myself may have been involved.) I know the material. I'm not worried about that at all.

So why, when I called the testing center, scheduled and paid for it, did my heart start racing, my lungs get all tight, my hands get clammy, and my adrenaline spike?

...Darn it, body, it's been over fifteen years since tests controlled your grades, and those controlled your student loans! Besides, the degree? It turned out to be less useful in getting half the jobs you've held than your pilot's license! You can stop going "Aaaaaaaaaaauuuuugh! TEST! Auuugh!" any minute now.

...aaaannnny minute....


Tuesday, April 30, 2019


The only standard thing about Chinese fortune cookies is that nobody ever takes them seriously. They're often hilariously wide of the mark, and just as often misinterpreted with gleeful maliciousness aforethought.

...and then there's this one, that I got on my way back from LTUE, a writing conference in Provo:

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Out Sick

Will be back later. Until then, have a cat doing what I intend to do shortly.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

At the Eye Doc

Peter: "Love, do you want some coffee?"
Me: "They have coffee?"
Peter: "Look. Over there."
Me: "Oh, hey! Coffee!"
Receptionist: "So, I'm guessing she's the patient?"

Monday, April 1, 2019

Deja what?

Last week, the shoulder finally felt well enough to go back to the gym. Being me, I picked a setback number by guess and by golly, and went for it on squats and press. Well, I got it... but I was exhausted afterwards. Might have been too ambitious.

Then I got home, looked at my hedges, and thought, "Self, those needed trimming last fall, and you're finally feeling well enough! Time to get some sun and tackle them!"

Yes, I had forgotten about the gym. Yes, I had to take breaks when my hands started cramping too hard to hold the clippers. Yes, I bloody well got it done anyway. Even if lifting the giant contractor black bag chock full of clippings into the garbage bin nearly killed me.

Yes, I was fairly useless the rest of the day and the next one.

A week later, I go to the gym, and say to myself, "Self! Now is a light squat day, so we can tackle deadlift again!"

...I backed off 5 pounds for "light." Because me. And perhaps I should have backed off the deadlift weight a bit, for the first try at a work set. I might have been too ambitious.

After the gym, when I got to my front walk, I looked at my bushes and thought "Not only are those two not quite square, but everything's shaggy! It's growing everywhere I trimmed, and doesn't look neat anymore! I need to trim the bushes!"
...and then I stopped, because I could hear the universe laughing at me.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a good day to trim the bushes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Pay No Attention To the Cat Behind The Curtain

What you don't see is Ashbutt, hiding behind the shower curtain and periodically leaping out in ambush on Kili's tail.

...Which she keeps hanging off the edge and swishing back and forth so it taps the curtain....


Monday, March 18, 2019

Maybe spring?

Today, like yesterday, started with frost and climbed quickly with aspirations to hit almost 70. Roofing companies are out all over Tiny Town, taking advantage of nice weather to quickly fix shingles that departed roofs all over in the last bad blow. On the ground, contractors are fixing fencing with the brand new boards in sections looking amazingly bleached against greyed, weathered wood.On the highway, TXDOT crew are digging in the dirt in the median for some reason. In Itchy Paw Falls, electrical crews are digging like a pack of German Shepherds let loose to look for long-buried bones after the snow cover's gone.

So of course, I look at all this glorious earthmoving and decide it's a good day to start on the yard. I'd start on the garden, but Alma of Cat Rotator's Quarterly gave me the incredibly valuable rule of thumb for local weather: "If you start on your garden before the mesquite blooms... you'll be doing a lot of replanting."

Four bags of mulch replenishing the flowerbed later, and roughly 100sq ft. of hardpack red clay dirt broken up and mixed with compost, then a roll of mulch/stabilizer/fertilizer/grass seed laid down and cut to fit in all the patches it's being tested, and watered, and then more white rock moved, and potting soil and fertilizer added to all the herbs that overwintered, the overlooked branches broken up and tossed out...

I suddenly found myself too tired to make dinner. Yeah, maybe I ought to put off trying to build a square foot garden 'til next year; this yard stuff is work!

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Can racks

Elsewhere, I was asked how I keep my cans organized, after I mentioned that we'd consolidated, grouped, and set the cans so we always keep 14, 8, or 5 or so on in stock. The first part of the answer is pretty simple, and it's cardboard organizers.

You can see 'em here:
But the principle is pretty basic; it's a cardboard box with an angled insert and a slightly-bigger-than-can opening at the back. So you pop the newest cans in the top of the front, and they roll down the length, drop to the bottom level, and roll to the front. This makes is very easy to do FIFO - First In, First Out, or "always use the oldest first."

(There are several inventory methods, but most practical setups default to FIFO or LIFO (last in, first out.) You don't want to do LIFO on anything that expires, because the oldest stuff gets shoved to the back. Copper plumbing parts don't care, but there's a reason the drink companies have set up racks that stock from the back and make it very hard to take any bottle but the oldest one in the front. And yes, when you google the terms, you're likely to get inventory cost accounting instead of inventory management, but that doesn't mean the beancounters own the terms.)

Now, which cans to keep in what quantities? Ah, that's the not-simple part! We started by taking what cans we had on hand, and stuffing them in cardboard organizers, and then at some point we filled those up with more of the same kind. Then we started getting the inevitable small pile of cans on the side - and some of those we looked at and went "Yeah, we get that a bunch" and filled another organizer; others are in the rack of one-offs.

(I very rarely make clam chowder. When I do, I need one can of clams. So I have one can in stock, but I certainly don't need 4 cans for something I make 2-3 times a year at most.)

Ideally, once a year we go through the cans - in reality, it's been closer to two and a half. But Peter took the time to go through the racks recently and pull everything that was expired or close to expired. The expired stuff got tossed - not because it instantly turns bad on the expiration date, but because it's stuff we got for a single purpose, and we haven't eaten enough of to turn over in years. The stuff close to expiration, and even the stuff far from expiration but that we realized we never used, got bundled up and given away. (With a few exceptions. The one-off can rack is a wire rack filled with "one of these, two of those..." for a reason)

The survivors? We had an interesting and thoughtful conversation about those. Most are "common ingredients in food" - like the rotel (diced tomatoes with green chilis. Very common.) Others are, despite being anything but keto, quick "I feel awful and want comfort food", like the chicken noodle soup. (Good intentions to keto are fine. When flu and strep stalks the household, the red and white can of instant comfort, just add boiling water, trumps good intentions.)  The third sort are common ingredients in easy, fast, good cooking that can be done even if we lose power... like canned beans.

Having lived in places where food supplies were unreliable, and electricity is usually unavailable right when fresh food shipments are, too... I am a very, very big fan of canned beans. They're delicious, filling staples that don't require clean water to soak, or the time and fuel to boil - the kind of thing that even if the flood water took the labels off the cans, sterilize the outside and you have good food waiting inside. Add some spice via rotel, and you have a tasty, hot, filling meal.

Like dry socks, a tasty hot meal makes the world a far, far better place. (And if you have both dry socks and a tasty hot meal? Things are gonna be okay.)

Please note: I am not recommending everyone copy the following list for their own. This is what I'm currently using and cooking with, as it suits my spice cupboard and cooking habits. Your own spice cupboard and cooking habits are likely very different from my own. But for the gentleman who asked, this is going to be a practical, real-world example of what can happen when you combine a love of cooking with a house with a large pantry. (And this is specifically my can racks, not my bottles or jars or bags)

7 pinto beans
7 chickpeas
36 tuna I like
36 tuna Peter likes
18 canned salmon (the small flat tins)
14 black beans
14 kidney beans
14 white (great northern) beans
12 chicken noodle soup
12 cream of mushroom soup
5 coconut milk
7 canned green beans
14 rotel (diced tomatoes with green chilis)
14 italian seasoned diced tomatoes
14 flame-roasted diced tomatoes
14 plain diced tomatoes
14 tomato paste
8 canned mushrooms
14 canned corn
5 mixed vegetables
14 diced rutabagas (great low-carb alternate to potatoes, no peeling!)
5 diced pineapple
5 sliced pears
8 canned boneless turkey* (27 oz. Grabill meats)
8 canned pork chunks* (27 oz. again.)
21 canned beef
21 canned chicken

*Grabill Meats. Rarely used because I have fresh and frozen on hand, but if I need to make something and either have no time to cook the meat, or have no power, these are really good canned meats.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Chicken Pot Pie

Yesterday, when eating the leftovers from the Superb Owl party, I was staring at the sad remnants of the veggie tray and had An Idea. So the ranch dressing was tossed, and the rest came home with me, to be made into Chicken Pot Pie, the easy version.

Note: this low carb variation calls for a specialty ingredient called "carbquick" - this is just a low-carb variant of bisquick. You can use any biscuit recipe, or just plain use whomp biscuits, if it makes you happy. I used this, because it's what I have on hand.

Leftovers Chicken Pot Pie (carbquick version)

2 oz butter and/or tasty grease like bacon fat or duck fat
2 oz carbquick (or arrowroot powder for paleo, medium carb)
3-4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
1-2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 Tbsp onion flakes (unless you're dicing an onion in the veggies)
1 tsp black pepper
1-2 tsp mesquite smoked salt (or regular, if you don't have any smoked)
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce (optional)
Veggies. (I used the remnants of a veggie tray, cut to small chunks, and a bag of frozen stir-fry veggies, and a can of diced rutabagas, rinsed three times to get rid of the canned taste. So... whatever you have that needs using.)
1 can chicken breast, drained (or up to 2 cups of leftover chicken meat, rough chopped)

Topping: (something biscuit-like, dropped in spoonfuls)
1.5 cups carbquick
3/4 cup half & half
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400F
In a dutch oven, heat 2 oz butter until hot, add 2 oz carbquick/arrowroot. Stir constantly to prevent roux from from sticking to bottom and scorching, until at least the colour of peanut butter.
Add chicken stock, bay leaves, spices and salt, stir.
Add veggies & meat, stir, return to a boil & reduce to simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a separate bowl, mix biscuit topping (or, if using whomp biscuits, just whomp it open on the counter edge.) When the veg has simmered for 10 minutes, turn off stove, and spoon biscuit topping on top of veg & gravy mix.
Put in oven and bake for 30 minutes or until biscuits are well browned.
Pull out, turn off oven, and let sit for at least 5 minutes so you don't sear the inside of your mouth.

Serves 4 hungry people without any sides.

My husband tried a bowl, and hunted me down in my study. "This is great! You need to make this again!" Um... okay, but the leftover veg is never the same from day to day, so I can't promise the same results...

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Learning curves

Cookbooks tell you a lot about the tastes of the cookbook author, and the standard go-tos in their kitchen that they build into every recipe. For example, the guy who runs cast iron keto is very fond of spicy. He likes to stick jalepenos in just about everything. He also likes cheesy foods, thing that are pretty dense and heavy on the stomach. Which makes great comfort food when it's cold outside, but I will definitely be cooking more of his recipes in the winter than in the summer.

For the summer, well, I'm working on learning to cook in the instant pot. It's a steep learning curve, and being at the bottom of the learning curve is frustrating when I'm used to being near the top. You're not going to be seeing "This awesome instant pot creation!" recipes here any time soon, unless I can figure out why my the recipe swears eggs cook in 4 minutes at high pressure, but after 14 minutes at high pressure, I finally just finished the eggs off in the microwave.

So far, the score when following directions is: 2 failures (how did that turn out both mush and charred?) and 2 mediocre meals. Fortunately, this is why G-d gave us a Mexican restaurant in town, and gave me a patient husband with a good sense of humour.

Meanwhile, I continue to work on tweaking things for improvement. When delving into "Why are the keto rolls slightly bitter, when the fathead dough pizza crust I make isn't?" The answer seems to be that the standard baking powder, when used in that quantity, is to blame, and I should switch to an aluminum-free baking powder.

So I headed to the pantry to very what baking powder I had, and that I could just mix up a stopgap batch from baking soda and cream of tartar. (I can.) But I also found a bag tucked away behind the baking soda, fresh from Bob's Red Mill, of double-acting aluminum-free baking powder. Peter strikes again! When reorganizing the pantry, he must have noted that I'm getting low, and gotten a replacement while ordering more (requested) almond flour. I love my husband, I do!

As for the way my spinach & artichoke-heart dip is rather... robust, it turns out I'm using frozen spinach, which I should have realized isn't a one-for-one replacement for fresh. So the dip as it's called for has a lot more water to make it gloopey, and I have a lot more veg to make it stand up.

Next variations to include in the experiment: close examination of the photo on site indicates that the recipe creator might have used red onion while merely calling for onion, and the local supermarket's awesome spinach dip also includes chopped water chestnut for crunch. Those might not stand up to the heat of cooking, but I bet a handful of pine nuts would...

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Scalloped turnips, iteration 1

This post is on an in-process dish, so I can find the notes the next time I'm making it. Usually, these are scribbled on a post-it stuck next to the recipe, and then once I've made a couple more iterations and firmed up the final recipe, written in the cookbook in pen. So, cook at your own risk. :-)

Scalloped Turnips

3 large turnips
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp butter for sauteeing
3 Tbsp butter, cut in 1/4 Tbsp blocks or smaller, as preferred
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp mesquite smoked salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
8 oz (1 block) cream cheese

First, peel & thinly slice the turnips. (I used the thinnest setting on the mandoline.) You may have to trim a little bit off the edge of the turnips so they fit in the mandoline for slicing. Next time, try rinsing the turnips & draining after slicing, to cut down on the heavily aromatic turnip smell. This is a great dish as is, but with the smell of turnips filling the kitchen, there's no way to fool yourself into thinking this is a scalloped potato replacement. When done, preheat oven to 350 F.

Second, dice onion. Heat 10 inch cast iron skillet on stove, add a little butter/grease/oil, and saute the onions, thyme, salt, and black pepper. When the onions are translucent and starting to brown, add garlic, stir for 30 seconds, then remove from heat and transfer onions & garlic to bowl.

Third, in the microwave, soften cream cheese & heat cream, then whisk together with smoked salt and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

Fourth, in the now-cooling cast iron, place turnip slices in a layer, careful not to burn your fingertips. Sprinkle a bit of the onions, add a couple dots of butter, then repeat until you're out of turnip slices, onions, and butter. Pour the cream sauce over the whole thing, cover with aluminum foil, and slide into the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes covered, then carefully pull the foil cover off (avoid steam burns!) and bake another 40 minutes uncovered, until golden brown on top.