Posts Tagged ‘spinach salad’

Photo by Susie Nelson

Photo by Susie Nelson

Last night I had an In-N-Out burger “animal style”. Yum. In high school I contributed a good deal of my allowance money to In-N-Out and never lost the taste for their delicious burgers over the years. To give them all the credit they deserve, they’ve never lowered their standards using fresh ingredients and delivering a terrific product every time. The original stand I frequented was just that, a stand. Basically it was set up for drive through customers, although there was a small window at the front of the small boxlike building, where customers could order if on foot. Music blaring from our stereos, tuck and roll freshly installed from Tijuana, we cruised through after catching a movie at the drive-in or roller skating for a late night cheeseburger with grilled onions and a large fry, washed down with a soda or a suicide (a deadly concoction of coca cola, root beer, 7-up and anything else with a spigot attached to it). No wonder Clearasil did a big business back in the day.

Unbelievably, I can remember getting a McDonald’s cheeseburger and fries for about $.30. When I babysat, which I did often during my high school years, parents paid me $.50 an hour for the privilege of watching their little ones. Married not long after I graduated, I could feed my new husband and myself on a budget of about $15 a week, barely covering a loaf of bread and a jug of milk at today’s prices.

I mention this because I went to the grocery store yesterday. This is not unusual as is obvious by this blog, but it certainly is getting more expensive. Handing over $65.82 I got in return two bags, neither containing meat other than a half a pound of deli peppered turkey. Amazing. I wanted turmeric for a recipe I was working on. I found it appropriately in the spice aisle on sale for $7.99. Really? I hope it comes with a steak. Waving a fond farewell to the turmeric I decided instead to do something different with my chicken with the impressive array of spices already found in my cupboard.

It used to be I went to the store and purchased what was written on my list. With the drought pumping up the prices on nearly everything I need, I’ve turned to grocery outlet stores and double coupon days to help bring the cost of food down to a manageable place. Mentioning the soaring prices to the checker as I placed my two bags in the cart he said, “don’t forget the price of gas”. Thanks for reminding me.

Our middle class is fading into the background with jobs flourishing for low-income employees as well a higher paid executive positions. Advancing technology is phasing out many jobs formerly done my middle-income employees with a high school education, or high school plus a few years of college. Many middle-income jobs are being rerouted overseas where products can be produced at a fraction of the price by employees happy to work for pennies on the dollar. It is not unlikely the grocery clerk reminding me about the rising gas prices may someday be replaced by a computerized system at the checkout stand.

Lately there is a lot of buzz about reeling in some of the technology we’ve come to know and love. It is deemed unhealthy for little ones easily addicted to tablets with colorful pictures and animation before pulling on a pair of Dora the Explorer training pants. How do you reel in a revolution so warmly embraced by everyone from the diaper set to their great-grandfather Skypeing his grandchildren from the nursing home? It would be like taking away a pacifier from a crying baby. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Apps are popping up quicker than spring flowers. They range from helping police officers locate the closest donut establishment to capturing a picture of the food on your plate and determining your caloric intake taking into account what you’ve already put away for the day. We’re on the line, the hook is set and we’ve been reeled in. People are tiring of the constant clicking and chattering cluttering up their daily lives, unable to capture a moment of their children’s attention away from the glittering screen in front of them. Technology companies are amassing huge fortunes in their coffers riding on the surge of technology flooding the market devoured by consumers hungry for newer and more advanced products finding the ones just purchased obsolete before reading the user’s manual.

Where will we go from here? It boggles the mind. I watched a story on the news about a device implanted in several spinal injury cases which actually sends pulses to the brain allowing them to walk again and feel their previously inanimate limbs. Wow. Had we seen it in a movie in the 70’s we would have considered this all merely a work of Hollywood fiction. Hal, for me, in 2001 a Space Odyssey, was a bit unnerving but perhaps not so far fetched. What if we create machines so smart they outsmart their inventors? Cue Rod Serling now.

It is becoming an interesting, frustrating, often dangerous, and unpredictable world we live in. Always filled with incredible beauty and mother nature in the background toying with us playing her incessant games. Hopefully, the prices will level out as I’d like to try that recipe with turmeric down the road I’ve been eying. For today, it is to be in the 80’s, the tulips are blooming in the yard, and I’m headed out for a walk.

Panko Crusted Tilapia with Spinach Salad


4 tilapia filets
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. salt
2 egg whites
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Canola oil
Tartar sauce

Pat tilapia dry. Mix together Cajun seasoning, black pepper, garlic salt and salt. Sprinkle evenly over filets. Whisk together egg whites and Dijon mustard in shallow dish. Place bread crumbs in another shallow dish.

Coat each filets with egg white mixture then thoroughly dredge in bread crumbs.

Heat 1/2″ of Canola oil over high heat until shimmering. Add fish to pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve with tartar sauce.

Serves 4

Spinach Salad with Mustard Dressing

1 pkg. baby spinach
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
6 large button mushrooms, sliced thin

Toss all ingredients with dressing or plate decoratively and pour dressing on top.

Mustard Dressing

1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 red onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp. prepared mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to food processor. Process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Photo by Susie Nelson

Another month and a half or so and the moving van will be pulling up out front.  Yesterday the donation van packed up our surplus items and last week the shredder van whisked our unneeded paperwork off to be made into confetti.

Short of trying to cross their palms, I couldn’t convince the drivers of the donation van to disassemble the enormous albatross of a desk my other half has in our downstairs office and take it with them.  It has room to land a small plane on the surface, and enough filing space to satisfy the needs of the Oval Office.

Deciding what to keep and what to move on with you is quite a project.  Often I find myself sitting cross-legged on a bed or on the floor digging through old pictures, and things the children and grandchildren have made me over the years and having to make the difficult decision on whether to throw them back in the container they were living in or deposit them in the “dump me” bag.  You can’t keep everything, and if you do “Hoarders” will find a spot for you on an upcoming episode.

My first in-laws were of the genre of people who simply could not let go of anything.  It’s a strange phenomenon. I would surmise it stems from doing without at some point in your life, or being afraid of not being able to replace lost items. I’m not a psychiatrist. At times after talking with my friends I feel I could put out a shingle, but as a layman it would appear to me it might be an explanation for holding tightly to your possessions.

I like familiar and lovely things about me, but overcrowding makes me claustrophobic. Once in Texas visiting my ex-husband on a job he was doing, I met a man in his late eighties who I don’t believe had given away anything since donning his first pair of long pants.  What a character.

Bert, his name was, fancied himself somewhat of a ladies man although his dazzling days remained far behind him.  He made his home in an old ranch style home with a double wide trailer next to it on a several acres of land on the outskirts of Houston.  Self described as a “long drink of water”, he breathed the atmosphere at well over six feet, admitting to having shrunk some over the years. Reed thin, if the man turned sideways he needed to stick out his tongue to make his presence known.

The land his home rested on, as well the trailer next door rented by my ex, had been passed down family to family over the generations. Other than the two living areas and the outbuildings, the acreage, once farmed by Bert’s predecessors, wasn’t used for much anymore except to graze cattle and grow wildflowers.  A herd of cattle lazily chewed on blades of grass tails flicking at the flies buzzing around them, in the pasture beyond the gate.  Bert explained the cattle belonged to a neighbor, who paid for the privilege of having the animals partake of their meals on his land.

In comparison to my ex husband’s trailer, which which was furnished with an old couch whose better days had come and gone twenty years prior, a mattress on the floor in one bedroom and a television set that still had the rabbit ears attached to the top, Bert’s two-story home was a labyrinth and a tribute to the power of accumulation.  Makeshift aisles had been established to make moving from room to room doable if not easy.  On either side of the walkways “needful things” were piled high one on top of the other with no apparent system visible. In one corner of the kitchen magazines and yellowing newspapers were stacked in towering piles. Bert explained these were in case he needed a good read in the terlet.

Barbecue was his passion, so he told me. Since being diagnosed as an insulin dependent diabetic, he could only partake of his special sauce with artificial sweetener. Sweetener or no, he said it would stick to your fingers like flypaper, just like his Daddy’s had.  Ushered to the rear of the house, I was shown a mammoth grill on the deck looking more like a locomotive than a device for preparing food. Huge huge pipes protruded from the top of the unit and gauges were screwed here and there for monitoring the internal temperature.

On my first night there I stood in the tall grass at the fence, and fed the cows pieces of lettuce torn from several heads Bert had provided for that purpose.  Cows have an affinity for me as I mentioned in my post earlier about working the cattle ranch in Manitoba.  It seems my pheromones are conducive with enticing bovine desire.  Ah, the gifts I have been given.  After I returned home, I got a scribbled note from Bert saying that he and the cows were still looking to find me standing at their fence.  Ah, still a dazzler.

Bert meanwhile was busy tending the grill.  Brisket was the menu offering and it had been cooking since the sun came up. If the smells wafting in the breeze were any indication, the long wait was going to be well worth it.

In spite of the smell of food attracting any number of buzzing intruders, we ate “al fresco” that night. Heat was oppressive and the humidity so thick it was like breathing broth.  The brisket was the best I’ve ever tasted. Bert served it with ears of fresh corn and an enormous salad of fresh vegetables from a neighbor’s stand.  After the dishes were done we sat on the porch. Bert told stories of his youth while indulging in a rare treat of a shot or two of J.D. and a cigar from the box on the mantle.  “As a young man”, he said wistfully, “Jack Daniels went in my coffee in the morning and in my shot glass at night. Back in the day, I smoked likely three packs a day.  Kids won’t let me nowadays.  Say the damn stuff’s going to kill me.  Hell, I’m old as dirt anyhow. Think they’d let me go with a smile on my face.”

Bert passed on at ninety-five.  My ex went to the funeral.  As was the custom in his parts there was a viewing.  Two elderly ladies stood looking down at the deceased while my husband waited to pay his respects. After a moment of silence, one lady turned to her companion and said,”I knew one day the cigarettes and booze was gonna kill him”. Smile.

This was a really good spinach salad.  I seem to crave salads this summer.

Bacon and Egg Spinach Salad

1 6 oz. pkg. baby spinach
4 slices cooked bacon, crumbled
2 eggs, crumbled
5 large mushrooms, slivered
1/4 cup red onions, thinly sliced and halved
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper

Wash spinach and remove stems. Tear into bite sized pieces. Toss with remaining ingredients.


1 cup white wine vinegar
4 Tbsp. EV olive oil
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. fresh chives
2 Tbsp. freshly chopped parsley
1 tsp. Hungarian paprika
2 tsp. yellow mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 ice cube

Put all dressing ingredients including ice cube in tightly closed container. Shake vigorously until ice cube has dissolved and dressing has emulsified. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Toss desired amount with salad.

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Photo by Susie Nelson


Well, I seem to have made a mess of my posts. I found out I don’t have to have surgery next week and it threw everything out of whack (in a good way) for me and in my typical Susie way I published the right post with the wrong recipe. Forgive me. I apologize if they’ve been jumping around a bit.  Somehow I trashed items I didn’t mean to and published the wrong recipe.  If this is not the feed and grain story and the strawberry salad I’m quitting.

As I’ve said in previous posts, at one point in my travels I settled in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. My husband at the time worked as a pipe fitter at a refinery about 45 minutes drive from the house. With him working long shifts, I was left to create my own entertainment. Summer months there it was on average 105 degrees outside and 98% humidity, so after cleaning and walking the house for a few weeks (I became an excellent house walker, I highly recommend it), I needed to think of something to occupy my time. Since I didn’t know many people in the area the idea of getting a job seemed to make sense. The construction jobs were temporary in nature. Consequently, I didn’t feel right taking a permanent job knowing I would only be short term. Soooo, I signed up with a local temp agency. Within two days they called offering me a secretarial job at a local feed and grain. It was a three month assignment assisting in the office. Well, to say that the care and feeding of farm animals was not strongly stressed in my educational background would be like saying that Mick Jagger is eye candy. No letters please, I love the Stones. Smile.

What the hell. Life is short and in my world all new experiences welcomed. I accepted. The following Monday I found my way to their office, which was located directly across the street from the stockyards.Being a true animal lover does not eclipse the fact that a large group of farm animals placed in a stressful situation generate a serious amount of ammonia. Whew, or pew being the more appropriate word.

Meeting my supervisor, Link, and the rest of the staff I was given a mini-tour of the facilities. Out front loomed huge grain elevators with chutes pointing down toward the yard. Behind the elevators a large warehouse dominated the yard. Doors open, huge pallets were stacked everywhere and the area was buzzing with sounds of forklift motors and trucks loading and unloading. Quite impressive.

The office itself housed around twenty employees set up in cubicles. In addition to this, on one side of the building there was what looked to be a booth of sorts which could double for a box office at a movie theater. After an hour of minimal training the realization that this box had something to do with why I was there began to sink in. Link explained that there would be a more detailed training period the following day but at the moment he was “busier than a cat covering it up”. True story, like I said you just can’t make this stuff up.

Next I was set up in the box office window. It was equipped with a lengthy list of products for sale, a cash register and a metal handle, not unlike a gear shift, with push buttons on it. There was one flat window directly in front of the cash register with one that slanted out on either side. My instructions were to wait for vehicles to drive up and then move the lever forward whereupon the box office with me in it would propel us into space to take customer orders. Kind of like a McDonald’s only mobile and for cows. The list of products was done is sort of code. Dog chow might look like “DCHW”. Great. The cash register had corresponding buttons, also in code. Not only didn’t I have a clue at the time what was the breakfast of choice for livestock, but I had to break the code it seemed before I could place the order. Could I have gracefully ducked out the back door at that point I would have and never looked back. Intuition told me this was not going to end well.

Somehow I got through the day. Back and forth I drove in my little window. Understand now, these were very thick southern accents coming at me through a grainy speaker asking for products that I had no idea what they were. They could have been speaking Klingon.

Not being a quitter, I went home that night, had several fortifying glasses of Chardonnay, and showed up the next morning asking for more. The stockyards were open that day so the first flatbed truck that pulled in had two newly purchased calves in the back. One of them leaned over the rail, placed a very generous and gooey tongue on the side window and offered a long lick along the glass to announce his arrival. Jeez.

Later in the day a pig farmer showed up. Usually you can tell they’re coming from a mile or two away. No offense. He had two very large pink porkers in the back who cast their well lashed eyes on my moving box office with some suspicion. Behind him he had a ranch hand driving a much larger truck, I assumed to transport their order. He asked for a large amount of what sounded to me to be “hog cone”. Looking at my coded list, there was only one code that even vaguely resembled that, it said “Hog Conc”. Feeling confident, I pushed the corresponding Hog Conc button on the cash register and slicker than ordering a Big Mac and biggee fries, sent them on their way to get their order loaded.

Shortly thereafter this same farmer accompanied by the back manager showed up in the office. This guy was obviously not happy. He had that “damn northerners, not worth killin”, look on his face. After much waving of hands, flapping of overall bibs and speaking in tongues it was concluded that he had a truck full of whatever this hog concentrate was when all he had asked at my window was a dang old load of corn. Speak up!

They were a great group of people to work with. All the farmers were interesting and funny, for the most part at least. The hog farmer never exactly warmed up to me after our initial encounter, and always checked his receipts. This story must have been repeated a hundred times since I worked there. It’s my mothers favorite among my travel stories.

Check out this video for an interesting take on shucking corn.  Cool idea.


Strawberry Spinach Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing

1 bag (10 oz.) fresh baby spinach, rinsed
1 quart strawberries, hulled, halved and sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup mandarin oranges (canned or fresh)
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Sesame Seed Dressing

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. finely chopped onion

Whisk together all ingredients. Refrigerate for at least 1 hr. prior to serving.

Rinse spinach and tear into large salad bowl in bite sized pieces. Top with all ingredients. Toss with dressing.

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