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final

As a preteen all I ever wanted to be was an Egyptologist. Every term paper, short story or journal entry was filled with pyramids, sultry nights, and Middle Eastern history. Thoughts of digs permeated my young mind. Sitting cross legged in the hot sand unearthing artifacts buried there in the beginning of time. I’m not much into scorpions or snakes, and heat makes me wilt, so most probably it would not have been the appropriate career choice for me. However, to this day if offered a chance to see the pyramids I’d be on my way in a hot minute. Hot being the appropriate word here.

Rick having been born in Cairo was definitely a plus on our first meeting. A blend of English and Egyptian blood he was raised in a suburb of Cairo largely by his maternal grandparents. Coming to the States to attend college in Michigan, he never looked back, but speaks of growing up there often. Days were a mix of tea and falafels as he tells it. For one year they relocated to Kuwait. A scientist of note, his grandfather was called there for a series of lectures. Kuwait in the dead of summer presents itself with withering, blistering heat, driving inhabitants inside to the relief of cooled air during peak hours. Chores and outside activities were dispatched early in the morning or later in the day after the persistent sun was laid to rest. Businesses closed their doors after lunch proprietors retreating to their homes for an afternoon siesta, to return later in the day staying open into the evening. Aside from the heat, this particular year was to be a year of the locust. Billions of voracious bugs swooped down from the sky forming a dark moving cloud. Acres of vegetation were laid to waste in their wake. Clean laundry could be seen hanging on the line on the day the locust arrived. Rick’s grandmother had hung the clothes early in the morning when the sun was kinder. Despite the two men’s attempts to stop her as the insects descended on the yard Rick says his grandmother ran out into the into the courtyard to rescue her clothes. Covered with insects she yanked the clothes from the line. Returning to the house she stood in the kitchen looking as if she’d been a chicken thigh dredged and ready to toss in the pan. Exerting herself in the intense heat apparently had sucked all the salt up through her pores causing it to rise to the surface and dry. A thin white coating covered all her exposed skin. There is no laundry, no matter how dear to me, that would be worth that sort of effort. For my money between the heat and the crunchy swarm, the clothes could have remained on the line until they went out of style, but that’s just me.

Besides all the wonderful stories about his life there, Rick introduced me to many dishes a good old Canadian like myself would never have Döner_in_Istanbul_(01.10.2008)found in my Joy of Cooking. Shawarma, for example, meat marinated and layered on a large skewer rotating around a vertical gas fire. When cooked the meat is shaved off with a sharp knife in thin slices and served. Absolutely wonderful. Also, he introduced me to falafels. Up until then I thought it was something one might treat with a healthy dose of antibiotics.

I’ve developed a real taste for Middle Eastern food with all its rich exotic flavors. Following is an easy recipe for falafels. They’re the best. Vegetarian as well, for those who eschew the ewe. Tahini (pronouced Ta-hay-na)should be able to be purchased in any grocery store in the International section.

Falafels

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas or garbonzo beans (approx. 12 oz.)
2 cups chopped cilantro
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground tumeric
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 onion, quartered
Oil
Tahini
8 pitas halved
1 red onion thinly sliced
2 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
8 lettuce leaves (I use romaine, but any will do)

Sort and wash chickpeas. Place in large bowl and cover with water at least two inches above beans. Cover bowl and let stand overnight. Drain.

Combine chickpeas, cilantro and next eight ingredients in food processor. Process until the consistency of coarse meal. Divide into 16 equal portions and form into patties.

Heat 1/2″ oil in large skillet. Add 5-6 patties at a time and cook approximately 3 mins. on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

To make pockets. Spread tahini sauce on insides of pita halves. Place 1/2 lettuce leaf, 3 falafel patties, tomato, onion, and cucumber in pocket. Drizzle lightly overall with sauce.

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final
Ever having day where you question your intelligence? Read my blog occasionally. Surely it will reassure you to know there’s someone out there a notch lower on the intellectual pole.

Yesterday I went to the store for some groceries. My list included salsa, so I picked up a tub. Helping me put my items away Rick noted the date on the salsa to be about two weeks out. Sigh. They should have a shuttle to the market for people like me. No matter how many lists I write, I either forget an item or omit one necessary for a recipe I’m planning requiring a return trip.

This morning I had a doctor’s appointment, a well-check, they call it. At the beginning of each year they look you over and see if you’re in need of repair. Good news! I’m still chugging along. After the doctor visit I stopped at the market to return the out-of-date salsa, pick up a new one, and get a few items for Rick. Setting the salsa in the cart, I shopped for a few minutes. While in produce I ran into a friend of mine. After exchanging a few words I went up and checked out. Turning onto the road to my house it occurred to me I’d forgotten to return the salsa in the cart. Are you serious? I think I should have had a brain scan while in for my well-check. Now I have purchased the same out-of-date salsa twice, providing my own the second trip, and I still can’t eat it. This seriously should make you feel better about yourself. Smile.

After a certain point in life forgetfulness becomes an integral part of the program. You open the cupboard to get the coffee in its usual place only to find the ice cream you ate for dessert the night before melting all over the shelf paper. After much searching you locate the coffee in the freezer where the ice cream should have been.

Rick’s favorite word lately is “whatchamacallit”. This because his short-term memory is not as good so when his mind is searching for names of people or places whatchamacallit is a place holder until it locates what it’s looking for. Last week one entire sentence was constructed with the word.

A friend of mine recounted a visit to Macy’s. Always carrying two pair of glasses, dark lenses for driving and her prescription glasses for, well, seeing. She exchanged her sunglasses for her regular glasses on entering the store. First stop, the makeup counter. As an aside I can almost smell this section as I write about it. There is something positively intoxicating about the look and smell of the makeup and cologne section of a high-end store, but I digress. Chatting with the saleswoman she made a selection and was handed a bag with her purchases. Finding nothing else she couldn’t live without she headed toward the exit realizing she’d left her glasses on the make-up counter. Backtracking she explained the dilemma to the lady behind the counter. Staring confused at my friend’s face the lady asked “are they a different pair than the ones you’re wearing”? Ach. Embarrassed, my friend mumbled it was her sunglasses she was searching for and hurriedly left the store.

We’ve all done stupid things. The ability to laugh at ourselves is important, because there’s going to be a time when it will come in handy, guaranteed.

It isn’t only with age I’ve begun to make an idiot of myself. It’s been going on for some time. In my late twenties I involved an entire security force at a mall searching for my car, presumed stolen. While tooling around the parking lot with a security guard in a golf cart I realized I’d forgotten I’d driven to the mall in my fiance’s vehicle. Shortly we located my fiance’s car in the spot I’d parked it in, waiting for me to remove my head from my behind.

Apparently these genes are potent because I’ve passed them on to my children. Picking up the phone this afternoon I enjoyed a rather lengthy conversation with my daughter. Knowing she’d been invited to a relative’s wedding shower, I inquired as to how it went. Surprisingly this prompted tears on her end. What? “You don’t have to tell me if it’s a sensitive subject. What?” Both she and her daughter purchased new outfits and shoes for the event to be held in a beautiful restaurant not far from their home. Uh huh. Looking forward to wishing the couple about to get married well, since the wedding was to be held in Hawaii, my girl was excited. Saturday she spent all day selecting just the right gift and card, getting her hair cut, and nails done. All good. So why the tears? Sunday she and my granddaughter got gorgeous, collected the beautifully wrapped presents, and headed toward the restaurant. Once inside they inquired at the reception area where they would find the wedding shower party. Confused, the hostess checked her books. She suggested they might look in church since the shower had been held the day before. Sigh.

Life will insist on throwing you a curve now and then. I think it’s for balance. As I’ve said before how will we appreciate the hot weather if it never snows, the lack of pain if we never experience, life if not for death. Keeping us on our toes for sure, it’s a fun ride nonetheless.

This was an interesting omelet. My mother is arriving next week. I have allowed my larder to dwindle in anticipation of shopping for food on the weekend. Opening the vegetable bin, I found two zucchinis, and a bunch of green onions. Eying the eggs I wondered. Hmmmm. Surprisingly this was very good. I put sour cream on top. Yum. Normally I would have accompanied this with a dish of salsa, but, you know.

Zucchini Dill Omelet with Dill Sour Cream

1 medium zucchini sliced thin
Salt
3 green onions, chopped fine
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 large eggs
1/8 cup whole milk
1 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 cup feta cheese, crumbled

Slice zucchini thin. Place in colander and sprinkle with salt. Allow to sit for 30 mins. Rinse well. Pat dry with paper towels and then roll inside towel to squeeze liquid out.

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini and cook until lightly browned and tender, about 8 mins. Add green onions, and cook 2 mins.

Whisk together remaining ingredients in mixing bowl. Pour egg mixture into pan. Swirl to cover pan and vegetables.

Cook until eggs begin to set. Reduce heat to med.-low, cover, and continue cooking about 10 mins. until set. Immediately invert on serving plate. Serve with sour cream.

Dill Sour Cream

1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. dill
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients and refrigerate until ready to use.

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finalAccording to those with their fingers on the economic pulse of the nation, the average working Joe needs to learn how to view their financial life with new eyes. Impulse buying needs to be left by the roadside, and thrift become a pattern of life for us to survive as we drift into old age. As I watch the price of gas accelerate again here in California rising fifteen cents in a 24 hour period on one day, and fork out $4.00 for a loaf of bread, I have abandoned the thrill of immediate gratification concentrating instead on buying what I need rather than what I want. It sucks.

Frequently I make the drive to the Bay Area. Both my mother and my son and his family reside there. On my last visit I made a side trip through San Francisco to visit a friend. Two toll bridges later my wallet was $10.00 lighter. With the mass of vehicles traversing these bridges every day it is surprising to find the roads pitted and trash littering the sides. Where do all these tax dollars go? I’d love to see the paperwork detailing how they put all the monies gathered at the toll gates to work.

thWhere or where has our water gone? Sadly the drought lingers on. Dwindling water supplies ensure prices for food will rise. Farmers are laying waste to fields they’d normally plant without access to ready water for irrigation. These days I peruse the ads in the paper for sales on veggies and fruit and clip coupons for staples such as peanut butter and toothpaste. I’d love to plant a garden, but then……….how to sustain it?

My son has two children approaching their teens. This year was their first year in public school, having gone to a private school to begin their education. The cost for private tutelege, $11,000 per child, per year before books. Last week while school was out his family hit the slopes before what little snow we have had disappeared. According to my son the price for a lift ticket runs around $100 a day for each member of your party. Dinner at the lodge, which included chicken strips and hamburgers was accompanied by a bill before tip for almost $70. Amazing.

Theme parks are on the rise as well. As a kid the first thing I wanted to do upon arriving in Southern California from Nova Scotia was to visit Disneyland. Back in the day the Matterhorn was the star attraction. Magic Mountain was not yet even a hint of an idea in a creative mind when I first tasted the magic there. At the entrance you purchased a book of tickets. Each ride had a letter assignation ranging from A-E, if memory serves. E designated the more popular rides, like the Jungle Ride, Haunted House or the newly constructed Submarine Ride.  A book of tickets, lunch, and some Mickey Mouse ears might have come to around $70 for two. Today you will pay $90 per person for tickets at the gate, not to mention the high cost of feeding your face once inside. Wow. Also, the mass of humanity descending on the park has increased markedly. The writer of an article I was reading about the high cost of fun stated he waited four hours on his last trip there to get on his favorite ride. This after paying an extra charge entitling him to go to the front of the line. I guess my days of throwing up on the tea cups are behind me.

Other suggestions for living on a shoestring might include shopping at thrift stores. This is something I discovered years ago. Most of my summer tees come from thrift store racks. If you pair gently used items with new, it’s like doubling your wardrobe choices. I lived in Redondo Beach, a lovely Southern California community nestled on a gorgeous span of Pacific Ocean coastline. Shopping at the abundant second-hand stores populating the area was like Christmas every day. Wealthy inhabitants seemed to wear their lovely high-end clothes only once or twice before tossing them in the donation bin.

Another idea is to put away a set amount out of each check, say $20, in a separate account. This is not a new idea, certainly, but a viable old one. Actually they have an app that will deposit a certain amount in a reserve account each time to make a purchase with a credit card. All good ideas. We save our change in a huge jar, and every $1 bill I get I throw into another bit pot. Every six months or so we cash in our savings and take a mini-vacation or go out for a fabulous meal. Last time I had enough for two days at a very nice hotel plus meals for a weekend.

Make a list when you visit the grocery store. I know if I go without a list I tend to pick up this and that wandering the aisles ending up with far more than I need. Also, eat before you go or you’re liable to add another $20 or $30 in fiery Cheetos or sticky buns. Look for coupons before you shop or for local restaurants before going out to eat.

Keep your old car in good shape so it lasts longer. Not a problem for me. I’ve never been a car person really. If it runs and it gets me from Point A to Point B, I’m a happy camper. The only car I’ve ever had that I formed an attachment to was my 1985 300 ZX. That was a car. Bronze exterior, with butter leather seats. Equipped with a sun roof, 5 speed, and fabulous stereo. God I loved that vehicle. If you could have a crush on a car, that was mine. Unfortunately it was not the ideal transportation for two growing children and three dogs, so in the end I waved a sad goodbye to my beloved ZX. A tear perched on my lower lid I signed on the dotted line for a practical family sedan. Sigh.

Unless you find yourself in the 1% holding onto the big bucks most probably finances are on your mind on a regular basis. People are downsizing to teeny tiny houses and paring down their possessions to make ends meet. Maybe it’s a zen sort of existence we’re headed for. Possessions weighing in as less important. Quality over quantity. I don’t know. For me I keep clinking my change in the bottle and looking for deals. Luckily I have Rick on the premises who’s like a dog searching for his bone in the back yard when it comes to smelling out bargains.

This is a fairly easy soup to pull together with an absolutely delicious end result. I heat it up and cool it down by the amount of jalapeno I add. Our motto is adopted from a phrase I picked up from a friend while living in the southern states, “If it don’t make you sweat, it ain’t worth eatin'”.

You’ll notice the absence of salt in this recipe. Certainly you may add some at the end but the ham hock should provide ample salty flavoring.

Black Bean Soup and Rice with Key Lime Crema

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1/2 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced (omit if you prefer)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 quarts chicken broth
2 large meaty ham hock
Red onions chopped and sliced avocado for garnish

Heat olive oil in stock pot over med. heat. Add onion, green pepper, and jalapeno to pot and cook until soft, about 8 mins. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Mix seasonings together in small bowl. Sprinkle over vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Add broth and ham hock. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook partially covered for 50 mins. stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Remove ham hock and take meat off bone.

Take 1/3 of soup and put in bowl and use emulsion blender or use food processor to puree. Return to pot with meat. Cook uncovered on low boil for 20 ins. stirring frequently. Serve over rice and topped with Key lime crema.

Serves 4

Key Lime Crema

1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. key lime zest

Mix together and refrigerate for 1 hour.

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Amazingly our garden is looking like spring, and it’s mid-February. A bit unnerving for those of us living in the Golden State. Stands to reason if we’re enjoying tee-shirt weather this early in the year, summer will be a bear. I’m not complaining about the lack of rain, however, after observing what people to the east of us are enduring. Roads like skating rinks, power lines frozen solid, roofs caving in. Even Niagara Falls looking like a scene from Frozen. Truly Disney’s movie mirrored in a way what winter was to look like this year with a polar chill gripping most of the nation.

Three times in my life I’ve lived in snow belts. Growing up in Nova Scotia, certainly winter made itself known. Three years in Massachusetts, and three years again in West Virginia. Snow makes the landscape incredibly beautiful, I think. Draping itself among the tree branches, making stark patterns along the roadways and in fields. For a kid, it’s a playground on which to sled, toboggan, skate, and ski. Building a snowman was usually the first order of business when winter arrived for my friends and I. Learning to build a good snowball also an essential for kids growing up in snow country. By the time my ankles could support my weight I had ice skates. The frog pond in Point Pleasant Park, two blocks from the house, was where we gathered to show off new skates or glide about on the ones we’d already broken in. Cheeks red as persimmons, and feet frozen solid we twirled and raced across the ice for hours seemingly oblivious to the frigid air and our numbing limbs.

February should reflect the above, but snow seems as far away as another universe on such a short-sleeved day as today. Tulips ought not to bloom in the week following Valentine’s Day alongside bright pink cherry blossoms. What’s up Mother Nature? Were you bored with hurricanes and forest fires? Allergies are in full force out here while back east gridlocked frozen highways keep people long into the night stuck in their cars.

Deciding there was nothing to do but get out and enjoy this glorious day we first took ourselves to breakfast. I had Eggs Benedict, my favorite. Rick had his usual French toast. Creatures of habit are we. Afterwards we ran errands, stopped to wash the car, and ended up at Home Depot to look for some light fixtures before heading home.

As ridiculous as this sounds, I have a totally irrational fear of going through a car wash. This wasn’t always the case. It began about twenty years ago. I was dating a man at the time carrying on a love affair with his vehicle. Seriously I believe if an assassin had pointed a gun towards me and his SUV and said, “your lady or your car”, I would have gone down like the Titanic. The car, or “baby” to he who loved it, required a full bath each weekend rain wasn’t predicted. This was followed by a thorough hand rubbing with a soft chamois and a good vacuum to capture any debris daring to make its way onto the pristine floor mats. Kings have enjoyed less pampering. Taking food inside the car could be a deal breaker. Once we ordered take-out. The food was placed on a 33 gallon trash bag in the back in between two bricks to stabilize the bags. Taking the food in the house he went back to the car for a dusting of “new car spray” to remove any lingering odors of egg rolls mucking about. Water, if thoroughly enclosed, was acceptable on a trip as long as it didn’t contain any flavoring which might stain the upholstery. I suggested at one point a detailed manual might be handy to help one keep track of all the rules. This was not well received.

My car, unaware such vehicle spoiling existed, looked good but certainly not as good sitting next to the larger vehicle requiring sunglasses to view it in full sun. After several weekends without seeing me outside buffing and shining it was suggested I take my car through the car wash down the road. Fine. I worked a sixty hour week at least at the time and whether or not my car was immaculate at any given moment was on my list right after going diving for oysters. As a note, I detest oysters.

To appease, my next free Saturday the Neon and I made the drive to the car wash. A man met us at the entrance with options including waxing and wheels. Going for the works I was handed a receipt and instructed to pull forward. I did. Somehow my wheels got off the pulley used to drag the car through the cycles once inside. The Neon tipped on one wheel was being urged ahead almost sideways towards the entrance. Much yelling and waving of hands occurred outside as the car wash personnel managed to shut down the car wash completely just as the driver’s side rear view mirror was ripped from its holder and tossed under the bus, if you will. Uh-huh. After the bubbles settled I was told to submit a claim for the mirror and offered a free car wash and waxing. Um, no thank you. Since then I either go to the u-wash car wash or allow my other half to do it.

I’ve mentioned before I had my energy read at a fair in Berkeley for kicks. The reader said he had never seen energy like mine. Very powerful stuff apparently. Smile. He asked if I had a lot of problems with machinery. Did somebody tell? Ach. I can walk by a printer and get the lights twirling on and off. Always been that way. An IT guy at one job intimated I had somehow warped the screen on my computer and pulled up a page he’d never before seen. Really? Put me to good use and I could be a weapon of mass destruction. Just ask Rick.

Yesterday after enduring me holding my hands over my face and chanting all the way through the car wash, we went to Home Depot. Not finding the light we were searching for I picked up a small house plant. Deciding on the self-checkout with only one item, I scanned the bar code. A screen came up on the machine depicting (not kidding here) a hammer suspended in the air and marks below it as if indicating I should hit the machine with it. Alerting the sales person there to help stupid self-checkout users such as myself, she stared at the screen. Seems she’d never seen that screen before either. Hmmmm. Curiouser and curiouser. Shutting down the machine entirely and rebooting I paid my $3.58 and decided to become a hermit.

This is a meal in itself. I served it with rice and we needed nothing to go with it.

Braised Artichokes and Beans

2 large globe artichokes
1 large lemon
1/8 cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can red kidney beans, drained
1 1/2 Tbsp. dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Fill a large bowl with water. Squeeze entire lemon in bowl then toss in rinds. Allow to sit for 30 mins. Cut artichokes in quarters lengthwise. Remove chokes (furry portions near stem) with knife. Cut ends of stems slightly. These are an extension of the heart so don’t cut too much. Drop artichokes in water and leave for 30 mins.

1

Pour olive oil in bottom of stockpot. Heat over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 8 mins. stirring often. Add garlic. Cook for 1 min. Drain artichokes, tossing lemons, and place in pot. Add enough water to cover. Reduce heat and simmer for 40 mins. or until tender. Serve with a bed of rice and melted butter or mayonnaise for dipping.

Serves 4

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1

Road rage is in the news again this week. A Las Vegas mother of four shot after an incident with a neighbor triggered by something that happened while both parties were in their vehicles. I’m the first to admit I get annoyed by inconsiderate drivers or people who insist on riding my bumper. Never, however, have I become so enraged I felt it necessary to arm myself or attack the other person. Arriving at my destination a few minutes later is better than not arriving at all.

One of my favorite scenes from a movie would be the one in Fried Green Tomatoes where Kathy Bates has her parking spot taken by two young girls. Bates leans out and explains politely she had been waiting for that spot. One girl responds, “Face it lady, we’re younger and faster”. Piled on top of the rest of the problems occurring in her life Bates rams the girls car out of the spot pulling in her car. On exiting the vehicle she yells to the excited girls, “I’m older, and have more insurance”. We’ve all been in such a situation. People can be rude and less than thoughtful. I run into it every day. Several days ago I was walking out of the pharmacy with a load in my arms. They recently instituted a plastic bag ban in our town and I keep forgetting to bring my reusable bags. At any rate a woman in front of me seeing me juggling my load of 2-ply Charmin, simply let the door go in my face knocking several packages to the ground. Turning around she looked at me, smiled, and kept on walking. The man behind me stopped, picked up my packages and walked with me to the car commenting that courtesy has all but disappeared in our world. Never during the whole scene did I feel like running the woman down in the parking lot or following her home. Not that important in the scheme of things. Really.

Often on the road I’ll encounter someone who is tailgating and passing everyone in front of them, weaving in and out of traffic. Arriving at the next stoplight that same car will be sitting behind all the others waiting for the light to change. All that activity didn’t really have much effect on how quickly he was going to reach his designation, but the unsafe lane changes and bumper running could have effected how others got to theirs or if. Unless you’re driving an injured person to the hospital what can be so important as to endanger your life or the lives of others to get to?

Anger is becoming a way of life. Every time you turn on the TV it’s in your face. Not long ago I watched my young grandson going through the levels of a video game. Military men, or cyborgs of some type, were shooting at one another with high-powered automatic weapons. Bloody limbs were flying about everywhere. The game, I was told, was purchased for his older brother. This may be, but it was not his older brother who was manning the controls. Kids are reacting, I believe, to all this violence with violence. Never in all the time I was in school or my children were in school did I hear of one case of a student shooting at other students on the school ground. Surely it had happened, but not in the alarming number of incidents we hear about today.

When married to my ex-husband, a Texan, we had a gun in the house. There were no worries about children getting hurt at that point, they were grown. Neither the dog nor the cat seemed to have any interest in the weapon, although both might have paid more attention had they known it had the propensity to eliminate the large red squirrel fond of taunting them in the yard. Truth was, it scared me. Bought for my protection, he worked nights at the time, the weapon made me more nervous than if an intruder was in the house. After several failed attempts at being able to even chamber a bullet, the decision was reached to leave it on safety underneath the nightstand on nights when I was there alone. Most probably I would have shot off my own foot before hitting an intruder, but he felt better knowing I had a way to defend myself such as it was.

I took it out only once when an errant possum wandered in the yard and got its head stuck in the tin can used to catch drippings beneath the barbecue. Other than that it remained where it laid until it went with him when he went and I wasn’t sorry to see it go. Growing up in Texas he explained they learned early to respect and use weapons. His daddy, so he said, kept guns in the house but all four children knew not to touch them and if they had occasion to use them, how do to so safely.

Violence has never been my first course of action. In the case of protecting myself or someone I love, I’m sure I would be spurred into action. I do know if someone took my parking place or passed me and shot me a universal hand signal, it would never be worth anything other than perhaps returning the favor. Obviously something far beyond the incident on the road must push these perpetrators of such crimes to the breaking point.

At any rate, dark thoughts for a gorgeous day. Unbelievably I have daffodils blooming on my hill and the cherry trees already magnificent down the road. Strange year for weather. Weather gurus are saying this could be a long drought for we Californians. Not good news for those people making their living from agriculture in the central valley.

On a cheerier note. This cod is so delicious. I make extra bruschetta and put in atop garlic bread. Yum.

Alaskan Cod with Olive Bruschetta Sauce

Olive Bruschetta

3 Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sliced Kalamata olives
4 leaves fresh basil, chopped fine
1/2 Tbsp. EV olive oil
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a pot of water to boiling. Cut a cross on the bottom of each tomato. Drop in water for 1 min. Retrieve with slotted spoon and cool. Peel, seed, and chop.

Mix tomatoes with remaining ingredients. Allow to sit in refrigerator for 1 hour.

2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup fresh fennel, diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
Olive bruschetta
1 tsp. dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
2 Alaskan Cod filets
Hot cooked pasta

Melt butter in large skillet over med. heat. Add fennel, onion, and garlic. Cook for 5 mins. until onion is translucent. Add tomatoes, bruschetta and basil to pan. Heat until bubbly. Add cod to pan pushing down into sauce and ladling some on top. Cover and cook for 8 mins. or until fish begins to flake.

Serve over cooked pasta tossed with butter or olive oil and chopped fresh parsley if desired.

Serves 2

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final

Rick suggested we go out for Valentine’s Day. What a nice idea. Unfortunately, we were a bit late in thinking of it so available reservations were all well on into the evening. Deciding instead to wait until the day after and avoid the crush, we chose a restaurant we’d eaten at before downtown. Rather, I chose it. Where we live is not exactly a restaurant mecca. Though quite an assortment to choose from, definitely it’s a question of quantity rather than quality. It’s not that they’re bad, mind you, rather not memorably good either. Sorry.

I chose a restaurant we’d eaten in before. My experience had been great the first time we’d been there with friends, with Rick’s sort of a disaster. Ordering a rack of lamb, he’d gotten two chops, standing one against the other like a teepee, for $35. There wasn’t enough meat, according to him, to keep a hamster’s bones from protruding. I asked if he’d give the restaurant a second look remembering my well cooked filet. He agreed. When we arrived, we fell in line behind three other parties. After a while we asked the person in front of us what the hold up was. It appeared we were waiting for the hostess to arrive. Ah. We stood. We stood some more. Then, yes, wait for it, we stood some more. Finally, the bartender came out from behind the bar. Apologizing, she said she would retrieve the hostess who was in the kitchen on her break. As I’ve mentioned numerous times I’m sure, we owned a restaurant. A hostess is certainly entitled to a break but this doesn’t mean leaving customers to forage for themselves while you take one.

After some shuffling it was our turn. Seated in a small table next to a far wall bread, at least, showed up quickly. I hoped this would keep Rick’s mind off our slow start. The menu included their standard fare plus a Valentine’s Day insert. Finding scallops on the insert, I signed up for them starting off with a salad with blue cheese dressing. A holiday after all, I intended to throw caution to the wind. Both my salad and Rick’s cream of mushroom soup arrived in short order. Rick reported the soup was hot and flavorful while my delicious salad disappeared quickly. Yea.

Our entrees arrived. Served with hot pads, the waitress warned us of very hot plates. Arranged nicely on my plate, were ten plump scallops encircling a mound of garlic mashed potatoes topped with crunchy slaw. Titled “fire and ice scallops” one side was served in a spicy red sauce, while the other side was presented in a more delicate creamy white sauce. Looked good. Rick had ordered Cajun prawns served with a side of fettucine and seasonal veggies. We were on our way to a good time. “Not so fast”, you say. Oh, that would be me saying that. Turns out the plates were hot as indicated, but the food sitting on them was cold. Actually Rick’s veggies felt like they’d just been taken out of the bin.

Turning to my scallops, I cut one in half. Oh-oh. Shiny through and through. Nothing is tougher than an overcooked scallop, unless perhaps an overcooked shrimp, but raw seafood can make you sick. I had a feeling this wasn’t going to end well. The waitress was called to the table and both dishes returned to the kitchen. The couple next to us sent one of their meals back at the same time. More bread please. Truthfully you can’t do much to ruin bread, though I’ve seen it done on occasion.

The hot plates returned after a bit. I was on my second cup of coffee. If I continued I would be found swinging from the ceiling fan before dessert. My scallops were cooked perfectly for their encore performance. Rick’s fettucine, however, had been sauteed to heat it up leaving it enough tensile strength to safely wrap a bundle of steel. Amazingly, his vegetables were now stone cold. The prawns were hot and delicious he said. He almost enjoyed a bite before the plate once again was returned to the kitchen. Urged to eat before mine got cold, I reluctantly forged ahead without him.

On the third try the prawns were hot, and the fettucine recooked. The frigid vegetables had gone missing. Rick cautioned the waitress not to touch the plate. He was over the vegetables. Third try being the charm, his dinner was a success. Working on the last of my third cup of coffee I was talking at such a rate one would have thought I’d downed one of those energy packs from 7-11. I did that once. Already being a rather high energy being, I nearly wound myself up and bored through the ground to Asia. Never again.

Commenting on the preponderance of words flowing off my tongue, brought up a discussion of the two couples seated at the tables next to us. One couple, I’d say in their late forties, sat down, exchanged several words about the menu and never opened their mouths again for anything other than placing food in them. At different intervals each of them looked at the ceiling, the door, their shoes, the people around them, and the floor. Rarely did they exchange a glance. Wedding rings were evident on both hands so one would assume them to be a married couple. Apparently they’d already exhausted what they had to say to one another or perhaps had a fight before coming into the restaurant. The other couple, far older, didn’t make any pretense of having any interest in the other party simply ignoring one another through the entire meal.

Let me say, I would hate that. You might have noticed, if you read often, I am not one to be at a loss for words. A partner who didn’t communicate with me would leave me yawning I’m afraid. In spite of the fact we share a lot of time together, Rick and I always seem to be able to find subjects to discuss. Coming from opposite sides of the world and often opposite sides of a topic, leaves us open to lots of debates about what’s going on in the world, family, or whatever else is on our minds on any given day. I’m glad for that.

Hope your Valentine’s Day was filled with good times.

This salad is so light and delicious. Aside from peeling the lemons and oranges, it’s a no brainer to throw together.

Sicilian Lemon and Blood Orange Salad

4 blood oranges peeled and sliced in 1/2″ slices
3 ripe lemon, peeled and sliced in 1/2″ slices
1 small red onion, sliced thin
6 fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. EV olive oil

Arrange orange slice on a plate in a circle. Arrange lemon slices on top of orange slices. Top with red onion. Sprinkle with mint leaves and grind pepper as desired. Drizzle EV olive oil over top. Cover with plastic wrap and leave on counter for 2 hrs. prior to serving.

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final

A legislator in California is pushing for a bill to pass requiring warning labels on sugary drinks. Is this really an issue that needs to take up time in our governing bodies? Certainly it seems there is enough hype about the effects of sugar on our bodies already. Are we honestly not aware soda is not good for us? Putting labels on harmful items doesn’t seem to me to be all that effective. Someone about to light up a cigarette doesn’t look at the side of the pack, read the label, have an epithany about the negative effects of tobacco addiction and throw the pack in the trash. At least not in my experience. This being true, the tobacco industry would have been out of business back when they began adding the label to their packaging. Never when pouring a glass of wine would the label on the side of the bottle have had any impact on my deciding whether or not to drink it, unless of course I was pregnant. My mother was saying when she was pregnant with me their were no such warnings in place. Women smoked and drank during pregnancy. I’m not advocating this as I practice. Strides in research about the dangers of doing this had been made by the time I was having children. As I was barely out of diapers myself it wasn’t a problem for me to do neither. I’m simply stating somehow the race perpetuated itself even with such ill-advised behaviors routinely being practiced.

Some warning labels are necessary. Particularly on medication bottles or safety products for children. “This drug may make you dizzy”, or “Be sure to buckle the seat belt when placing child in car seat”. These make sense to me. What’s next? How about McDonald’s putting warning notices on the side of the Big Mac box, “Warning, if eaten, immediately consult your scale”. Ach.

I noticed a label attached to the blow dryer I just purchased. Written in large bold letters it read, “Do not use in shower”? Really. Has somebody already done this and found it to be a bad idea? If so, I would assume they weren’t around afterwards to suggest a label would be helpful. How would you use it in the shower? Do you get your hair wet and dry it concurrently? Pardon the pun. I suppose an extension cord would work, but wouldn’t one think “Hmmmmmmmmm, electricity, water, water, electricity. Something here just feels wrong.”?

Personally it makes me feel as though the manufacturers of these products view us as less than intelligent. Sometimes we do behave that way I would suppose. For instance, another questionable practice catches my eye. People who post pictures of fabulous family vacations on social media WHILE they are on it. As lovely as it is to share our off with friends and loved ones back home, in this case mightn’t it be more prudent to do so after you return? Posting your time away from home definitely makes it easier for those people looking for a house to rob to narrow down their search. Another example of narrow thinking was several weeks ago the police caught jewelry store thieves after the two geniuses posted pictures on their Facebook account, full faces to the camera, holding their loot. To quote my seventh grade English teacher, “this is not muscular thinking”. Not me pointing fingers. If it wasn’t for doing stupid things on an appallingly regular basis I wouldn’t have much to contribute to this blog. Always, however, I am an observer of human behavior and I find the behaviors mentioned above definitely not muscular thinking at its best.

Warnings are thrown at us from all sides these days. Drink coffee, don’t drink coffee. For some years eggs have been on the cholesterol hit list. Egg white omelets touted by health and fitness gurus. Yesterday I heard the list has been updated and eggs are, in fact, good for you. Eat them up, yolks and all. Good news, because I’ve been eating them since I emerged from the womb. Dark chocolate now has a warning associated with it. For twenty-five years I couldn’t eat chocolate, so now that I can I intend to proceed accordingly. If I go, I go.

Speaking of dark things, Friday was Friday the 13th. Nice segway, yes? A good day to write about dark things. Curiosity led me to do some research about why the day got such a bad rap. Opinions vary widely, it seems, on how the superstition came to be. Some say it began in biblical times with thirteen guests seated at the table for the last supper, and speculation the crucifixion occurred on a Friday.

Superstitious souls believe it bad luck to begin an endeavor on Friday such as plowing fields or starting a new business. In the car business, vehicles manufactured on Friday are suspected of being more likely to be lemons or have major engine problems.

In earlier blogs on the subject I discussed the omission of the thirteenth floor in hotels. Naturally if there is a fourteenth floor the thirteenth must logically be the one below, it is simply not labeled as such.

Ancient Egyptians believed life unfolded in stages, the first 12 of which were experienced while of this earth with the 13th being after death.

Movie studios hopped on the unlucky thirteen bandwagon with Friday the 13th, a slasher movie featuring Jason, the slasher in point, running amok wearing a hockey mask in a summer camp. Not a fan of slasher movies, myself, it is the leading franchise of its kind on the market.

Sunday was Valentine’s Day.  A happy one for you I hope. My lovely red roses are still blooming in their equally rosy vase on my entrance hall table next to a suitably gooey card. Good job, Rick.

I craved cole slaw but found I had no cabbage. The craving did not overtake my urge to relax so I got to rifling in my vegetable bins. Hmmmm. Two large zucchini, several carrots, a red onion, and two apples. Life is good. It made a really delicious and pleasant version of the original.

Zucchini Apple Slaw

2 large zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and grated
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 small red onion chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

Whisk together ingredients until smooth. Mix well with vegetables and fruit and adjust salt and pepper as desired. Place in refrigerator for 1 hr.

Serves 4

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