Monday, September 18, 2017

Cheat Night

I mean, what the hell good is it to be all up into the whole eating healthy and exercising regularly if you can't just give yourself a treat from time to time.

In the last two months of endless yogurt and fresh fruit, sensible salads, home made bread (over two months here and I have yet to have store boughten bread in the house) with an occasional cookie or single scoop of ice cream, I decided tonight that I wanted to cheat.

That doesn't mean I'm going to go all nuts, but it is certainly a night to lift the low fat, low cal, stuff.

So, what you might think would I cheat with? Easy. Buttermilk Pancakes.

People ask me all the time for cooking tips in general, but sometimes, they get specific. "How do I get light, fluffy pancakes?"

My answer is always simple.

Don't. Fuck. With. Them. The biggest mistake I see people make with something as simple as a pancake is that they fuck with them. They start stirring in all kinds of different ingredients and flavors, and then on top of that, they over stir.

INGREDIENTS

2 CUPS ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
2 TEASPOONS BAKING POWDER
1 TEASPOON BAKING SODA
1/2 TEASPOON SALT
3 TABLESPOONS SUGAR
3 CUPS BUTTERMILK
2 TWO EGGS (FORK BEATEN)
1 TEASPOON VANILLA EXTRACT
3 + 1 TABLESPOONS MELTED UNSALTED BUTTER

First thing to do is your mise on place. That's French for "get your shit together." Start your griddle, set at 375.  Get your the first five ingredients into a mixing bowl, mix them well. Since we won't be stirring much when we put in the liquid, mix them evenly now.
Add the liquid ingredients now. (3 tbsp into the batter, reserve one with a pastry brush for the griddle)


 Mix until all ingredients are moistened and combined. Lumps are OK, lumps are way better than over mixing.

Use a ladle or any other kind of utensil to pour the batter onto the preheated, buttered griddle.
That's a split Andoullie sausage, because hey, cheat. Now is another time to remember my earlier advice of Don't. Fuck. With. Them. What you are looking for is a drying along the edges, bubbles that burst and do not immediately close all the way across the surface of the cake, and a lessening of steam. Don't lift them up to check and see the golden brown meets your high standards, flipping them and handling them will increase the chances of a fallen cake. That's ugly. Don't fucking do it. If you can't tell if a pancake is done by not touching it and just looking at it, you need to make a lot more pancakes until you get this part learned. You want a deep golden brown. Flip with a nice turn of your wrist and finish the cook.
For toppings you can use what ever you like. I am using maple syrup and some butter. That's the real thing, if you want maple flavor, get the syrup that was once inside a tree. I have no objections to any kind of fruit, whipped cream, or flavors of syrup. I have no objections to people who wrap up a sausage link into a little piggy in a blanket. I'm too busy dealing with my own pancakes to go all purity cop on somebody else's.

For now, football's on. I'll watch the game for a while and eat this delicious, easy meal.



Saturday, September 16, 2017

Pots get hung, Seafood Salad gets made

The absence of counter and cupboard space here has me frustrated sometimes. After I stew for a bit I usually go into fix it mode. Cup hooks set into the underside on a cupboard and the pots are hung. I've actually been asked by people "if I hang the pots, where do I put the lids?" Take the lid that goes with that pot, slide it down the handle, hang it up. That way when you need to cook something covered you don't have to go through a stack of lids to find the one that fits.

I know it's hard to hear people talk about "a cooling trend" when the highs are still in the nineties, but, last night I was able to open the house and sleep breathing fresh air. When it's hotter than the southern slums of hell here it is easy to forget that the majority of our days are bright, filled with sunshine, and beautiful. I'm still not using blankets, but breathing unprocessed air is a godsend.

When it's hot out I like to make dishes ahead that I can easily assemble and eat. I have taco salad fixings that I've been eating off for a few days. My friend Angie came by last night and we ate heartily. There's still several meals left in it, but I thought I'd get another dish, meant to be served cold, and on the lighter end of things. I'm very happy with the weight I've lost since being here. It isn't any big project or deal, I'm just eating better and exercising. Most of the exercise is in the pool, but I've also started walking to AA meetings. There are three good ones all within walking distance, that's what I do.

I forget where I found the original recipe for this salad. Except for the dressing, I doubt what I have been making and eating for the last several years bears much, if any resemblance to what was on the page at the beginning.

That being the case, consider every ingredient, every proportion, to be suggestive only. If there are things you think would be good to add into it, by all means, go right ahead. One of the reason I made this today is that there were some fresh vegetables, a red bell pepper, and some celery that was due to be used. This is what I used today, I promise you, the next time I make this it will have different things in it

It all starts with pasta. The original called for vermacelli. I've used angel hair, rotini, penne, and just about anything. Go with your preferences, and what's in your cupboards. Today I'm using spaghetti because that's what I have. I prefer the longer, skinny pastas because they load up better with the dressing.
Boil up some water. You want it at a full, rolling boil, put in a good dose of salt, and add your pasta in.
  1. Stir that in and let it boil until it is "al dente." 
  2. While the pasta cooks, I make the dressing. It's easy, it is also very good.
That's a cup of mayonnaise, one packet of Good Seasons Zesty Italian, a half teaspoon of dry British mustard.
To that, add a cup of buttermilk. Whisk until smooth.
This is a great all around ranch dressing. Better than stuff you buy.
Another thing I like on salads, and just to have around are hard boiled eggs. Making hard boiled eggs is simple. Do it this way and people will marvel at how perfect they are.
Start the eggs on the stove, covered by cold water. Doing it this way you will not have so many blowed up eggs. Use a low/medium heat to bring up the temperature slowly. When it reaches a simmer
cover it and
set your timer for fifteen minutes. Now go do the other stuff that needs doing. Leave the eggs alone to cook slowly while covered.

I chopped up the red bell pepper, three large stalks of celery, thin sliced some purple onion, black olives, I even had a bit more than a cup of shredded lettuce left over from the taco salad run, in it went, along with most of a jar of Italian Giardineira pickles, and for good measure about two tablespoons of capers.

When the timer eggs goes off, drain off the boiling water, and cover them with ice.
Doing this will stop the eggs cooking, they'll shrink a bit and pull away from the shell. You will have bright yellow, fully cooked, fluffy yolks that don't have that green ring, and they will peel easily.

I blew up the time line a little. While the other stuff was going on, the pasta finished cooking and was drained, not rinsed, and put into the container for the assembly of the dish. While the pasta is still hot, I pour the dressing over it. The picture of the assorted vegetables came after all that, so know that while I was doing that the pasta was already in the container and dressed.

Last, we add in the seafood. Today it is that fake Krab stuff. It's much cheaper than crab, this was even on sale. Other things you can use are shrimp of any kind or size. I've used everything from the little tiny bay shrimp, to langostine and crayfish. There are no hard and fast rules, if you want it in, throw it in. If it sucks you can always do something different next time.

That gets chilled through. To serve, put it in a bowl, or on a plate and go to town. I like a topping here and there, a few red pepper flakes, some parmesan dusted over the top, a splash of soy sauce, or even better vietnamese fish sauce, the crunchy salad topping thingies, are all good.

I was thinking I might hang a few instruments today, but, I'm ready to watch college ball and eat my salad.



Saturday, September 09, 2017

Peanut Butter Cookies

ok, so it seems that pretty much out of the gate i fell short of my posting regularly goal. things were happening, they demanded my attention, now it's over.

our day in palm springs started out with the temperature in the 90's, and raining. i figured i'd just roll with it and bake up some peanut butter cookies. i just think a counter looks right and together when there are cookies in the jar.

then, this afternoon, the sporadic rain turned into a micro cell bursting on top of us. the rain was coming down sideways, driven by high winds, the streets were flooded and running fast. after about twenty minutes of that, the power went off. they made a couple good tries getting it back on. enough for me to get a pot of coffee made, and scout out a couple leaks at the back door. towels were deployed. i took a nap. i woke up about 3:30 with the power still off, so i read for a while, practiced the guitar for a while, read some more. it was getting dark, and then it was getting darker, then it was really fucking dark. i was calling myself all kinds of stupid names, because after three power outages over the last month and a half i haven't bothered to stock in a flashlight, lantern, or even a few stupid candles. silly, silly, me.

a little after eight everything popped on. the rain did cool things off a lot. i've still got the house open, and it's very comfortable. i enjoy breathing actual, unprocessed air. it's nice to have the windows open for a change. the fans are keeping the air moving and it is a delight.

i decided that meant it was time to make the cookies. i'm using Martha Stewart's recipe. it's a good one. Martha Stewart is a goddess.

I won't go into the list of ingredients because what the hell, there they are at the link. me typing it out would only set up a risk of typos.

here's what it looks like though.

First you cream the butter and brown sugar together. since i don't have brown sugar yet i used a cup of white sugar with a little slug (about a teaspoon more or less) of molasses and it works just fine.


Add in the peanut butter, egg, and baking powder.
Add in the flour, one half cup at a time until well mixed.
Pinch off a bit of the dough, roll it into a ball, moosh it down with a fork crossways.

bake 18 to 20 minutes at 350, until the edges are a nice golden brown. cool on a rack for about 5 or six minutes, move the cookies off the sheet to another rack to cool further.

Keep doing that until the dough is all used. i got 18 good size cookies out of this.
See? That's what a cookie jar is supposed to look like.

I'm probably going to sleep with the windows open. That's pretty good.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Yogurt!

Making your own yogurt at home sends it into an entirely new realm. First off, it's cheaper. Second, it's much better.

The process is simple.


 Start with a half gallon of milk. Whole, skim, or 2% like I'm using here. Scald it. That means you bring right to the brink of a boil. Do. Not. Boil. It will make a horrendous mess. Once you see the ring of tiny bubbles around the wall of the pot, cut the heat, and wait for it to cool. This will kill off any bacteria besides the yogurt critters we will introduce later. I usually wait about an hour, or until I can pick up and handle the pot with bare hands without burning or discomfort.
The traditional way to do it involves boiling to reduce the water content and concentrate the milk solids, but, since I am avoiding the boil over mess making, add in 3 cups of powdered milk. This will achieve the same result.

Take some yogurt to use as a starter. This will introduce the yogurt bacteria to your cooled, concentrated solids milk. Then it's into the little yogurt maker. I use a French product called "YOGOURMET," which works its magic overnight. You can also set your oven on warm and leave the door cracked just a bit. Here's the deal though. You need things warm enough to grow the bacteria culture, but not hot enough to kill it. My little maker does all that. I just put the milk culture into the water bath in the canister, plug it in, and walk away.
This morning I spooned the yogurt into a muslin bag
and it's now hanging over a bowl on the shelf. This will drain the whey, which I will drink chilled (whey is full of nutrients, ask any body builder) with a spoon of gelatin to promote good nail and hair growth.

The difference between yogurt you buy and yogurt you make yourself is as pronounced a difference as you find with ice cream and bread. It's an entirely different food. It's packed with essential nutrients like calcium and Vitamin D.




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Today's Progress

On the unpacking end was a bit on the light side. First off, I went to a morning meeting which is conveniently right up the road. Folks in recovery in Palm Springs, especially in the summer, get the meeting done before the sun really begins to hammer down.

I like daytime meetings. They tend to be filled with people who are doing life stuff. Jobs, families, and other things to accomplish. They also don't lose sight of knowing we only get ourselves a daily reprieve from the disease. I took an hour for me. It was worth it.

Then I busied myself indoors with getting some art hung on the walls. Having things to look at, things that can provoke a memory of a place, or a time, lends a calming, pleasurable feeling for me.



My mother painted this picture of Abbie after she got sick and died. Abbie was a wonderful dog. Here's a picture I took of her back when she was younger.
I have to admit. Even with her advanced age, and Parkinson's, mom had skills.

That's another one by mom. It's pastel on paper, done in the 50's of me. She did one for each of her kids. That's what is hanging in the bedroom for now. As things progress I'll get more up.

That's one from a Pow-wow I attended with one of my X's. It's not great art, but in the bathroom, nobody will really know.



Three done by my friend Angie. The one on the bottom is a pencil and pastel she did after one of our convention stays right here in Palm Springs. The mountains on the top of it are the ones I can see from the kitchen window where it hangs.
That's bad photography on my part. It's a decoupage done by my sister Kerry. In the center is her calligraphy of a section from Tennyson's "Ulysses." Here that is:

Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. 
Kerry died a few years ago, and just as Tennyson said so beautifully, "Though much is taken, much abides. . ."

Here, also in the kitchen, are pictures of my nephew Nick's wonderful daughters, Amira, and Kiera.


Still in the kitchen, an abstract in a shadow box, sent to me by James Zedaker.

Finally, a pen and ink with watercolor wash, by Patricia Allen. The view is from my mother's kitchen window in El Centro.

Then I had a visit from my sister Kelly, and her husband Ron. They brought me a guitar I had left at their house in Yucca Valley. They work a short distance away at Rancho Mirage High School (Go Rattlers!), so it was no big thing for them to bring the guitar and a Jeopardy! messenger bag I use to carry music stuff, spare string sets, peg winders, pliers, scissors, picks, batteries, and other stuff that always seems to fail when you're onstage, about to go onstage, or other inconvenient times. They left with a loaf of fresh bread and a quart jar of yogurt.

After all that, I went to the pool and got some good exercise in. My left leg is a mess. The knee has been rebuilt a few times, the ankle is fused. Without exercise, the muscles atrophy, and the knee becomes unstable. I have been determined to do what needs to be done to work it back up. I figure it will also increase my stamina and overall health.

I'll write up the recipe for homemade yogurt next batch. The difference between yogurt you make at home and what you buy in the store is huge. It's also not hard at all.

So that's the report of the day's progress. See y'all tomorrow.








Monday, July 24, 2017

What to do when you go shopping

and forget to buy bread when all you really want is some avocado toast for dinner?

You make you some bread, that's what you do.

Then you remember you didn't pack a toaster. . .

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Progress Made

The place is beginning to look more like a place where somebody lives and much less like a camp site. I'm still on the couch for tonight,
but I've gathered a stash of quarters to be spent in laundry tomorrow. Once washed the towels and shirts that were used as padding in the packing can be folded and put away in their various assigned places.
A second shelf unit was erected and a degree of organization achieved.
T
The cupboards are no longer bare
and it's beginning to look like things might just get accomplished.
Slowly it's coming together.

Tomorrow I might even sleep on the bed. Like a real person who lives here or something.

There's even a batch of yogurt cooking. It will do that slowly, overnight, then in the morning it goes into a muslin bag to drain the whey and make it a true Greek style yogurt.

Now I intend to eat the rest of my chopped liver sandwich, take a shower, and relax.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

About That Pool



That's a row of shaded chairs with the edge of the shallow end.
The pool. Very well maintained, sparkling clean.

When it's hotter than the gates of hell, it's a very welcome thing. There's also a hot tub. In Palm Springs this time of year, every tub is hot.

New Day, New Digs

Here's the view from right outside the door. I love being able to see the mountains. Being that close to them also means that our city water is coming off that huge aquifer sitting right underneath all that rock. It is wonderful. No need for bottled or imports.
As you can see, the kitchen is still a work in progress. I'm doing a box, resting, chugging water, lather, rinse, repeat. Today is about getting my energy reserves back. Help is coming tomorrow.

Ok, it's been so long since I've used the blogger platform that I have totally forgotten how to rotate a picture. That's my plastic shelf unit, partially filled with cooking tools and stuff. I'll get better organized as I continue to unpack. Getting everything out of the boxes is the first order of business.
Big, cushy, recliner. Perfect thing for aching knees and back.
TV, National Steel Body Guitar, fan on a stand (a good desert trick for keeping your power bills low is to have the thermostat on the AC set high, then make sure you have a fan to move the air. Right now I'm set for 78, the fan makes that very comfortable)
Bathroom. It's not big, but when you live alone, not big can be a very good thing.
Bed and desk setup. I haven't dealt with making the bed or anything like that yet.
The couch is serving quite nicely.

I have a picture I took of the closet area, but it's piled up with clothes and stuff like that. I used a bunch of my clothes for padding in the boxes of dishes, and I haven't stocked up on laundry supplies. Just imagine a big, chaotic mess and you have the picture.

I'm heading to the pool for a quick dip.